Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Routine blood test predicts prognosis in aggressive skin cancer

Date:
October 31, 2012
Source:
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Summary:
A routine blood test may help predict survival in patients with an aggressive form of skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma, according to new findings.

A routine blood test may help predict survival in patients with an aggressive form of skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma, according to new findings by Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers. The results will be presented Oct. 31 at the American Society for Radiation Oncology's 54th Annual Meeting.

"With such a fast-growing cancer, we get one question a lot: 'how long do I have?'," says Matthew Johnson, MD, a resident physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase and lead author on the study. "That's usually hard to answer. These findings enable us to give a more educated response."

Specifically, Johnson and his colleagues found that patients with Merkel cell carcinoma who had low numbers of lymphocytes -- a type of white blood cell that participates in immune function -- didn't live as long after treatment as those with higher lymphocyte counts.

The difference was remarkable. Among people whose absolute lymphocyte count (ALC) was below the cutoff (1500 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, or 1.5 k/mm3), half survived 25 months or less after surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Among those with ALCs in the normal range, half lived close to 100 months or more following treatment. Disease-free survival was also much longer in patients with higher ALCs.

"Since ALC has been tied to prognosis in other types of cancer, we were expecting to see some difference between patients with high and low counts," says Johnson. "But it was definitely a bigger difference than what we were anticipating."

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive type of skin cancer, usually striking older people and those with weakened immune systems.

During the study, Johnson and his team reviewed medical records of 64 patients treated for Merkel cell carcinoma between 1992 and 2010 at Fox Chase. All patients had had their blood analyzed the month before surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Approximately two-thirds of patients had a normal ALC. Along with having longer overall survival, these patients were much more likely to be disease-free 60 months later (67%) than those with a low ALC (24%).

ALC may be associated with survival because it's a marker of overall immune health, says Johnson, and healthier immune systems may keep a cancer in check so it doesn't continue to grow.

Doctors routinely check a patient's ALC as part of a standard blood count, says Johnson. They just typically don't know how to interpret those particular results. Since checking a patient's ALC is already routine, it would be "reasonable, based on our conclusions," for a patient to ask his or her doctor for the results of that test, he notes.

However, if a patient's ALC is particularly low, there's little the doctor would do differently to treat Merkel cell carcinoma, since such an aggressive cancer is always treated aggressively. But many patients believe it's helpful to know their prognosis, he says.

"ALC provides patients with some information about how long they may have left. There are a lot of patients who just want to know."

Johnson's co-authors include Aruna Turaka, Fang Zhu, Thomas Galloway, Jeffrey Farma, and Clifford Perlis from Fox Chase.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fox Chase Cancer Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fox Chase Cancer Center. "Routine blood test predicts prognosis in aggressive skin cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031124851.htm>.
Fox Chase Cancer Center. (2012, October 31). Routine blood test predicts prognosis in aggressive skin cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031124851.htm
Fox Chase Cancer Center. "Routine blood test predicts prognosis in aggressive skin cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121031124851.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins