Breakthrough blood test detects breast cancer recurrence earlier than ever before | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 19, 2024

BY THE OPTIMIST DAILY EDITORIAL STAFF

A novel blood test, described as an “incredibly exciting” advancement, demonstrated the ability to detect the recurrence of breast cancer up to three years before tumors appear on routine scans. This invention has the potential to drastically enhance treatment outcomes (and peace of mind) for millions of women around the world.

A step forward in breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women, with over 2 million diagnoses each year. Despite advances in treatment, the danger of cancer recurrence, frequently at a more advanced and difficult stage, remains a major concern. The new blood test, unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology‘s annual meeting in Chicago, offers a substantial advancement in early diagnosis and prevention methods.

How does the liquid biopsy work?

The test, created by experts at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre in London, detects trace levels of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) in the bloodstream. Cancer cells emit ctDNA, which can detect residual disease long before routine imaging methods can.

“Breast cancer cells can remain in the body after surgery and other treatments but there can be so few of these cells that they are undetectable on follow-up scans,” explained Isaac Garcia-Murillas, the study’s lead author at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London. “These cells can cause breast cancer patients to relapse many years after their initial treatment.”

Trial findings and implications

In the five-year trial of 78 individuals with varied forms of breast cancer, the test correctly identified recurrence in all 11 patients who relapsed. Furthermore, it detected no false negatives among the 60 women who did not relapse, confirming its great sensitivity and dependability.

Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, emphasized the importance of these findings: “Early detection is one of our greatest weapons against breast cancer and these initial findings, which suggest tests could be able to detect signs of breast cancer recurrence over a year before symptoms emerge, are incredibly exciting.”

The test’s ability to detect relapse considerably earlier enables prompt therapies, potentially stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. “Catching breast cancer recurrence earlier means treatment is much more likely to destroy the cancer and stop it spreading to other parts of the body, at which point it becomes incurable,” Vincent said.

Enhanced detection using cutting-edge technology

Traditional ctDNA testing often uses whole exome sequencing, which looks at between 16 and 50 mutations. However, the new test uses whole genome sequencing to analyze 1,800 mutations, considerably enhancing its sensitivity.

This innovative technology not only detects future recurrences but also assists in determining which women might benefit from preventive therapy and which can avoid unneeded treatment. “It is very exciting to see advances in technology that can detect cancer cells and DNA with greater sensitivity,” said ICR CEO Prof Kristian Helin. “These approaches are having a transformative effect on cancer diagnosis.”

Looking ahead

Although the research is still in its early phases, the potential significance of this test is significant. It has the potential to transform the landscape of breast cancer treatment and enhance survival rates by providing a way to detect cancer recurrence far earlier than standard methods.

The trial’s excellent results point to a future in which liquid biopsies may become a common tool in the ongoing fight against breast cancer. As subsequent studies confirm these findings, the goal is that this technology will become available to more patients, providing a lifeline to those in danger of recurrence.

 

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