Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_95170

Blood test predicts breast cancer relapse

1 September 2015
Appeared in BioNews 817

Scientists have developed a blood test that can predict several months in advance which breast cancer patients will relapse.

The researchers hope the test, which detects cancer cells that have been left behind after treatment, could lead to earlier interventions in high-risk patients.

'We have shown how a simple blood test has the potential to accurately predict which patients will relapse from breast cancer, much earlier than we can currently,' said lead author Dr Nicholas Turner, a Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, looked at 55 patients with early-diagnosed breast cancer, who had all undergone surgery followed by chemotherapy. The researchers took blood samples from these patients every six months for two years to look for circulating tumour (ct)DNA.

Women who tested positive for ctDNA were found to be 12 times more likely to relapse than those who tested negative. Using this test, the researchers were able to accurately predict relapse in 12 out of the 15 patients who relapsed.

The test was also capable of predicting the relapse, on average, 7.9 months before visible signs were picked up by clinics.

After treatment, it is difficult to identify whether all cancerous cells have been removed from a patient. Cancerous cells have almost identical DNA to all other body cells, the only difference being a small number of mutations responsible for causing the cells to become cancerous.

To overcome this, the scientists used a technique called 'mutation tracking' – a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which is personalised to the mutations of an individual patient's cancer DNA. The test screened the blood for DNA with these mutations. Any DNA in the blood with these mutations must have been released by cancer cells remaining after the initial round of treatment.

As well as being used to predict relapse, the test will allow scientists to track further mutations that develop in cancers over time, the researchers say. This knowledge could help personalise treatment, as it would allow the tailoring of treatment to the genetic make-up of an individual's cancer.

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: 'We are moving into an era of personalised medicine for cancer patients. This test could help us stay a step ahead of cancer by monitoring the way it is changing and picking treatments that exploit the weakness of the particular tumour.'

Dr Nick Peel, from Cancer Research UK, said: 'Finding less invasive ways of diagnosing and monitoring cancer is really important and blood samples have emerged as one possible way of gathering crucial information about a patient's disease.'

He added: 'But there is some way to go before this could be developed into a test that doctors could use routinely, and doing so is never simple.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
A simple blood test may predict breast cancer relapse
The Verge |  26 August 2015
Blood test 'detects cancer relapse'
BBC News |  27 August 2015
Mutation tracking in circulating tumor DNA predicts relapse in early breast cancer
Science Translational Medicine |  26 August 2015
New 'mutation-tracking' blood test could predict breast cancer relapse months in advance
Eurekalert (press release) |  26 August 2015
Simple blood test detects breast cancer relapse seven months early
The Telegraph |  27 August 2015
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
15 February 2016 - by Helen Robertson 
A blood test to diagnose common types of cancer is in development after researchers found that five forms of the disease share a telltale chemical signature...
9 November 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
Scientists say it may be possible to track the progress of cancer – and cancer treatment – in real time from fragments of tumour DNA that are shed into the bloodstream...
5 October 2015 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
A genetic test that can identify women with early-stage breast cancer who can be spared unnecessary treatment with chemotherapy has been shown to be effective in a clinical study...
28 September 2015 - by Neil Stoker 
Researchers have identified genetic differences in breast cancers that relapse and those that do not, suggesting that the finding could be used to help doctors identify patients most at risk of their cancer returning...
14 September 2015 - by Isobel Steer 
A US startup called Pathway Genomics has launched the first commercial 'liquid biopsy' to identify cancerous mutations via a blood test...
9 March 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
US company Sequenom has revealed that its prenatal blood test - MaterniT21 PLUS - has detected potential cancer in at least 40 expectant mothers since its launch three years ago...
9 February 2015 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
A genetic test to estimate the chance of breast cancer recurrence after surgery is set to become more widely available on the NHS....
22 September 2014 - by James Brooks 
A study where the tumour DNA of 16 prostate cancer patients was frequently checked suggests that, in some patients, commonly used anti-cancer drugs may actually boost tumour growth after a while...
10 February 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
Whole genome testing has been used to guide tailored treatment against advanced breast cancer in a group of 43 patients. The scientists behind the study say their research is a step on the path towards 'personalised medicine' where individual genetic makeup informs treatment choice...
15 July 2013 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Scientists have developed a 'barcode' blood test that reads genetic changes to pick out the most aggressive prostate cancers...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.