Blood test may predict breast cancer relapse

Aug 27, 2015, 3:32 PM EDT
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The results of a prospective pilot study of a recently-developed simple blood test have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.The "liquid biopsy" -- developed at the Institute of Cancer Research in London -- is a blood test that could cancer DNA in the blood before the cells grow into tumors. WebMD reports:

An experimental blood test may one day detect the return of early stage breast cancer months before it is revealed by CT or MRI scans, researchers report.
Initial treatment with surgery or chemotherapy can miss some cancer cells. The new test can detect DNA shed by tumors into the bloodstream before these stray cancer cells invade other organs, the British researchers said.
"Using a simple blood test, we might be able to better predict who is at risk of relapse," said lead researcher Dr. Nicholas Turner, of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
The test is still a long way from use in clinical practice, however. "This is the first study to show this, and much more study will be required before the test could enter the clinic," he said.
Using a technique called mutation tracking, researchers say the blood test identified the risk for relapse an average of 7.9 months before traditional biopsies or imaging scans would have shown tumors, referred to as clinical relapse.
"By tracking that, we can see whether after surgery there is disease present in that patient that we couldn't actually detect with our normal imaging approaches," Professor Mitch Dowsett of the Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust told CBS News. "It's far more sensitive and it's actually very specific."
Researchers say the blood test they developed can detect an individual's specific "circulating tumor DNA," or ctDNA, matched to the cancer for which they were treated. Previous research has also indicated that mapping cancer DNA could be one of the keys to earlier disease detection.