Saturday, April 18, 2015

New blood test can predict future breast cancer

CANCER DIGEST – April 17, 2015 – It sounds like something out of Dr. McCoy’s physician’s bag on Star Trek, a simple test that can tell whether a patient would likely develop cancer within the next five years, but that’s what Dutch scientists say they have developed.

By analysing a simple blood sample, scientists from the University of Copenhagen have succeeded in predicting if a woman will get breast cancer within two to five years. The method – a metabolic blood profile – is still in the early stages but over time the scientists expect it could be used to predict breast cancer and more generally to predict chronic disease.

"The method is better than mammography, which can only be used when the disease has already occurred,” said Rasmus Bro, in a press release. He is a professor of chemometrics in the Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen. "It is not perfect, but it is truly amazing that we can predict breast cancer years into the future." He stressed the method has been tested and validated only for a single population and needs to be validated more widely before it can be used practically.

Based on a population study of 57,000 people followed by the Danish Cancer Society over 20 years. The participants were first examined in 1994–96, during which time their weight and other measurements were recorded and they answered a questionnaire. They also provided a blood sample that was stored in liquid nitrogen. The scientists used the 20-year-old blood samples and other available data from 400 women who were healthy when they were first examined but who were diagnosed with breast cancer two to seven years after providing the first sample, and from 400 women who did not develop breast cancer.

Using the metabolic blood profile of the two groups, they were able to develop a metabolic blood profile for breast cancer. They then validated the test to predict breast cancer in a different group of women examined in 1997. The test identified 80 percent of the breast cancers in the second group. 

To put the new breast cancer test in perspective mammography can accurately detect newly developed breast cancer about 75 percent of the time, the new metabolic blood profile correctly identified the women who developing breast cancer 80 percent of the time.

The method has been developed in cooperation with The Danish Cancer Society and the study, which is funded by the Villum Foundation was recently published in Metabolomics. It comes out of an emerging science called metabolomics, the study of chemical processes involving metabolites or the intermediate processes of cell functions. Metabolomics studies the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes leave behind. It has been developed in food and nutrition research and is now being applied to diseases. The researchers emphasize that the new test will need much more validation before it is ready for general use.
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