Scientists from the United Kingdom’s Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust have created a DNA based blood test that can determine whether a breast cancer patient is at risk for relapse.

The test detects a recurrence several months before any other physical signs are evident. It is potentially useful as an early warning tool for patients who have completed breast cancer treatment.

The test is engineered to detect minute quantities of tumor DNA in a patient’s bloodstream.

The DNA emanates from the original tumor and is generally left behind following cancer treatment. Each patient’s cancer cells are collected and the test is tailor-made to detect these unique tumor cells. The leftover cancer cells are critical to identify because they could form new tumors and lead to a recurrence of breast and other cancers.

Researchers collected blood samples from 55 women who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and successfully completed treatment for the disease.

The study found that patients with a detectable level of circulating tumor DNA were 12 times more likely to experience a relapse than those who tested negative for the cancer originated DNA. Additionally, the blood test was able to predict a recurrence up to eight months before any physical signs of the cancer appeared.

This test is beneficial to both physicians and patients because it utilizes a routine, non-invasive blood test that can be safely repeated based on an individual patient’s treatment plan. It also avoids more expensive and invasive procedure such as mammograms, CAT scans and biopsies.

Researchers are hopeful that this blood test will make a real difference to breast cancer patient. However, it is still in the early stage of development. Before it can be considered as an important diagnostic test, researchers need to expand their trials to expand their trials. 

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Gerry Oginski
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