Sep 6, 2015
A new mutation-tracking blood test shows ability to predict a breast cancer relapse months ahead of time.
When dealing with a battle as powerful as cancer, any victory, no matter how small it may seem, should be embraced and celebrated. While our ongoing fight against the disease has indeed seen many defeats, we’ve continued to expand our knowledge on how it works, which in turn has increased our ability to stave off it’s evil. In August, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London did exactly that. They introduced a revolutionary blood test that can detect breast cancer relapses long before they happen.
According to the ICR, the blood test can reveal small numbers of residual cancer cells that resisted therapy by detecting cancer DNA in the bloodstream. This allows doctors to discover which patients will suffer a relapse after treatment, months before a hospital scan will show any evidence of a tumor.
The researchers behind the technique, referred to as “mutation-tracking,” took tumor and blood samples from 55 breast cancer patients who had potentially been cured by the disease, and had previously received chemotherapy followed by surgery. These blood samples, along with additional samples taken every 6 months, were monitored to help the researchers accurately predict who would suffer a relapse.
The results were extremely promising. Women who tested positive for circulating tumor DNA in the initial blood tests were found to be 12 times more likely to suffer from a relapse than those who tested negative. Furthermore, the return of their cancer was detected an average of 7.9 months before any visible evidence materialized.
Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women, and the second most deadly. The importance of discovering any form of cancer in the early stages goes without saying. The same holds true for early detection of relapses. And with a formidable portion of breast cancer patients experiencing a relapse at some point in time, the impact that could be seen by the mutation-tracking blood test could be monumental.
The video below features an interview with Dr. Nick Turner, team leader of molecular oncology at the IRC and one of the key figures behind the research, who does a phenomenal job of explaining the details and intricacies behind the breakthrough blood test.
For a full report of the prospective pilot study, see this article published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.