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  • Inside a tumour, cells are constantly growing, multiplying and dying.

  • And when cancer cells die, they leave behind clues

  • that are transforming scientists' understanding of the disease.

  • Dying cancer cells break up into microscopic bubbles, which can contain all sorts of molecules

  • - including chunks of the cell's DNA.

  • When cancer cells die close enough to a tumour's blood supply,

  • these DNA-filled bubbles can enter the bloodstream.

  • And as they break down, the tumour DNA is released.

  • This means it can be isolated from just a simple sample of blood.

  • And researchers are now using the DNA in patients' blood samples to learn more about cancer.

  • That's because they reveal a snapshot of the different genetic faults fuelling a tumour's growth,

  • and how they change as it responds to treatment.

  • Scientist want to use this to develop so-called 'liquid biopsies'

  • to help doctors monitor how a patient's tumour is responding to treatment.

  • For example

  • If a blood sample shows signs of tumour DNA after treatment

  • it could mean the patient needs a scan earlier than planned.

  • Or, if new faults are spotted in the DNA,

  • this could help doctors rapidly switch to treatments tailored to these changes.

  • Ultimately, this could open up new ways to personalise each patient's

  • care - and help their doctors stay one step ahead of the disease.

Inside a tumour, cells are constantly growing, multiplying and dying.

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