Breast cancer relapse can be detected by a simple blood test, according to a new study. Researchers say the test can spot the deadly disease two years earlier than imaging in patients with early-stage breast cancer.
"Currently, there are no sensitive and specific clinical tests available to follow breast cancer patients after their primary treatment," Professor Jacqui Shaw, Professor of Translational Cancer Research at the University of Leicester, told a news portal. Adding,"The results of this exciting study show that it is possible to monitor patients with a simple blood-based test, and this may provide a critical window of opportunity for earlier treatment than by other current tests."
The study was conducted by a team from the University of Leicester and Imperial College London that was funded by Cancer Research UK. The team developed the blood test called Signatera, using a molecular residual disease (MRD) assessment to spot mutant DNA, which is released from tumours that are dying. Researchers included a selection of breast cancer subtypes, such as HER2-positive, hormone receptor-positive and triple-negative. 49 patients with early-stage breast cancer participated in the study. They had all completed treatment with surgery and chemotherapy. Participants provided blood samples for four years every six months. The results were also compared with radiographic and clinical outcomes. The new blood test was able to detect at least 89 per cent of all relapses.
Breast cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer and is reportedly the second leading cause of death from this cancer in women. Millions of women around the world are diagnosed with the condition. Even though survival rates have improved, the issues of relapse is still a problem. Cancer returns within five years in close to 30 per cent of patients.
"Monitoring when breast cancer returns in some patients is an important step in improving survival," Dr David Crosby, head of early detection at Cancer Research UK. Adding, "Using circulating tumour DNA from a blood test is an emerging and promising method, although it requires further validation."
However, researchers are excited about the findings that can be a total game changer that could help scientists develop better treatment options."Standard technologies for the detection of cancer recurrence have always been imprecise," Professor Charles Coombes, Professor of Medical Oncology at Imperial College London, told a news portal. Adding, "With this innovative method of detecting minimal residual breast cancer, we now have the opportunity to conduct trials of treatments to prevent patients relapsing with symptomatic metastatic breast cancer."
Early detection is crucial and could be life-saving. "Women over the age of 45 years are strongly advised to undergo annual mammography tests and conduct monthly self-examinations. Being self-aware allows one to identify even the smallest changes and contact an oncologist for a clinical examination and further tests at the first sign of discomfort,” Dr Sandeep Nayak, senior consultant surgical oncologist, laparoscopy and robotic on surgery at Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, told a news portal.