Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New blood test may predict breast cancer relapse

Cancer Digest – Aug. 26, 2015 – Scientists have developed a blood test for breast cancer able to identify which patients will suffer a relapse after treatment, months before tumors are visible on hospital scans.

Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust took tumor and blood samples from 55 breast cancer patients with early-stage disease who had received chemotherapy followed by surgery, and who had potentially been cured of their disease.

Using a technique called ‘mutation tracking’ the researchers were able to test for mutations found in an individual patient’s cancer to identify tumor DNA in the bloodstream. By monitoring patients with blood tests taken after surgery and then every six months in follow-up, the researchers were able to predict very accurately who would suffer a relapse.

Women who tested positive for circulating tumor DNA had 12 times the risk of relapse as those who tested negative, and the return of their cancer was detected an average of 7.9 months before any visible signs emerged.

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is an important step towards use of what is often called ‘liquid biopsies’ or blood tests for cancer to revolutionize breast cancer care by changing the way cancer is monitored following treatment.

“Ours is the first study to show that these blood tests could be used to predict relapse,"  Dr Nicholas Turner, Team Leader in Molecular Oncology at the ICR said in a press release. "It will be some years before the test could potentially be available in hospitals, but we hope to bring this date closer by conducting much larger clinical trials starting next year. There are still challenges in implementing this technology, but digital PCR is relatively cost-effective and the information that it provides could make a real difference to breast cancer patients.”

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