New blood test to spot breast cancer early
Date Posted: 04.10.2012
Women could be spared the inconvenience of mammograms in the future and instead have a simple annual blood test to check for early signs of breast cancer.
British researchers are developing a blood test that scans for telltale warning signs in their DNA, which could be even more accurate than x-rays at spotting the disease early.
They are now starting a trial at Charing Cross Hospital in London, and hope to take blood from 500 women who have been asked back after shadows were spotted on their mammograms.
The researchers will then compare the DNA in the blood of women who go on to be diagnosed with breast cancer with those found to be free of the disease, to see what DNA markers are consistent. They have already found some DNA markers that indicate when breast cancer is present.
Should this first human trial be successful, they will start a new one looking at whether the blood test could be used as a breast cancer screening tool for all middle-aged and older women.
Dr Jacqui Shaw, principal investigator from Leicester University, said: “This exciting research means we could one day have a blood test that detects the very early signs of cancer, meaning women could have an annual blood test rather than breast screening.”
If everything went well, it could be available in five years, she suggested.
"I think this approach has the potential to impact significantly on screening in quite a short time," Dr Shaw added.
The study, a collaboration between Leicester University and Imperial College London, is being funded by Cancer Research UK.
Professor Charles Coombes, from Imperial, said: “When a woman has breast cancer we can tell by the DNA in their blood.
“But what we’re trying to find out in our study is how early the signs of breast cancer show up in a blood test.”
Early indications are that the test could pick up cancer earlier than identifying lumps by x-ray.
He continued: “By looking at blood samples of women who have breast cancer diagnosed through screening we can see if the cancer is already showing in their blood.”
The blood test could also help doctors tailor breast cancer treatments for individual patients, he explained.
“It could provide the clinician with some idea of what genetic abnormalities are occurring in the cancer, and that will help the clinician treat the patient more specifically and with less toxicity,” he said.
Breast cancer kills about 12,000 women a year in Britain, while there are some 40,000 new cases annually.
The researchers are also looking at applying the technique to lung and bowel cancer.
Stephen Adams Telegraph.co.uk