What is Tumour Sensitivity Testing and Why Should You Do It?

— BY Dr. Ryan Best | Reading Time: 2 min

Woman Cancer Visit

There’s no magic wand for curing cancer—but there is a method for dramatically improving the chances that treatment will be successful. It’s called tumour sensitivity testing and it can have a profound effect on the outcomes of someone’s cancer. If you or someone you love has recently found a malignant tumour or started cancer treatment, this is something you must know.

Tumour sensitivity testing is one of the most reliable ways to determine what your unique tumours are sensitive or resistant to in terms of treatment. Rather than put your mental and physical strength through the wringer with countless therapies, learn more about how tumour sensitivity testing can help you and your practitioner make accurate treatment decisions from day one. 

What is Tumour Sensitivity Testing?

Tumour sensitivity testing is a way to analyse the many ways tumours express different genetic mutations or genetic profiles in response to various therapies. This type of testing predicts how your unique genetic mutations will react to treatment across the board, from chemotherapy and radiation to immune therapies and nutraceuticals.

Previously, conventional approaches to cancer treatment standardized therapies based on where a tumour arose. For instance, breast cancer treatment would focus on therapies recommended for tumours in the breast, brain cancer treatment for tumours in the brain, and so on. The rise of precision medicine has now revolutionized how we select therapies for cancer patients. 

Undergoing Chemotherapy Treatment

The reality is, all patients have drastically different tumours, even if they have the same cancer. We now have highly accurate testing that takes a detailed look and determines what type of genetic profile your tumour has—not just what other patients with your type of cancer might respond to, but what your body will be sensitive or resistant to. 

How Does Tumour Sensitivity Testing Work?

Depending on your specific type of cancer, tumour sensitivity testing generally analyses the mutational profiles and genetic information of tumours in two ways.

  1. Solid Biopsy Sample: A small slice of a solid tumour is removed, cryofrozen, and sent to a third-party lab to be studied for resistance and sensitivity to various therapies.
  2. Liquid Biopsy Sample: A blood sample is taken for lab equipment to identify and isolate circulating tumour cells that reveal more about how the tumour spreads.
Cancer cells entering the blood stream

Most patients have already had their tumour(s) physically biopsied by a doctor. These solid biopsy samples are frozen and stored for years at a time. At Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine, these biopsies are sent to third-party labs alongside relevant bloodwork and diagnostic images of the tumour for tumour sensitivity testing.

Liquid biopsy samples are taken in-office and set to a third-party lab, where specialized equipment extracts circulating tumour cells. These cells bud off from a solid tumour, circulate through the body, and remain dormant until they find the right opportunity to colonize in a different tissue. Circulating tumour cells are often responsible for a recurrence of cancer months, years, or decades later.

What Can the Test Reveal About My Treatment?

Tumour sensitivity testing can unlock dozens of hidden details about your cancer treatment. Most importantly, testing reveals sensitivity and resistance to more than 150 different types of cancer treatment, including chemotherapy agents, immunotherapy agents, various nutraceuticals, off-label medications, and targeted therapies you might be offered through conventional care.

Rather than say, “I think this could help people with your type of cancer,” tumour sensitivity testing gives our Naturopathic Doctors the ability to determine what exactly your tumours are more likely to respond to. For most common cancers, practitioners now have validated circulating tumour cell data that can provide accurate information into: 

  • How your tumour is responding to your current treatment regimen
  • If your circulating tumour cells are responding to therapy or are likely to enter remission (complete elimination of the tumour and cancerous cells)
  • An accurate survival rating for your specific type of cancer 

In my personal experience, patients armed with this wealth of information are more likely to survive longer and locate effective therapies than those who do not track tumour sensitivity data. 

Cancer patient and nurse

How Can I Access the Test? 

Precision medicine is spearheading the evolution of integrative cancer care, and the team at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine is at the helm of the most prominent recent discoveries. We’re proud to offer tumour sensitivity testing at our clinic and urge anyone who is treating a cancer diagnosis or knows someone who is treating cancerous tumours to learn more.

As a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and registered member of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP), I can begin tumour sensitivity testing right here in our Mission location. Blood can be drawn at the clinic for a liquid biopsy sample and I can work hand-in-hand with your conventional provider to access your solid biopsy samples. 

Bear in mind, working with a Naturopathic Doctor does not mean you need to stop conventional cancer treatment. On the contrary, myself and the support team at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine work alongside conventional care teams every day to generate a comprehensive treatment plan that works in your best interests, no matter what type of cancer you’re facing. 

Find a more reliable way to fight cancer.

Cancer treatment is full of uncertainties. Access precision medicine that takes the guesswork out of which cancer treatment will work best for you.