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Breast cancer relapse could be spotted earlier with new blood test

Tuesday 23rd April 2019
A new test has been developed that is capable of detecting breast cancer relapses much earlier than was previously possible.
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Breast cancer is a major health concern, with approximately 55,000 women being diagnosed with the condition in the UK alone each year. Even when it goes into remission, relapse is always going to be a concern. Around 30 per cent of all breast cancer patients experience a return of the disease within five years.

This all adds up to breast cancer having the second-lowest survivability rate out of all cancers in women. However, a new blood test has been developed that could give patients a better chance of survival, as it is capable of detecting relapse much earlier than imaging can. 

The test, which was developed by genetic testing company Natera, looks for the strains of mutant DNA that tumours release as they die. The specific technique is known as a molecular residual disease assessment.

It was assessed in a study undertaken by the University of Leicester and Imperial College London, and funded by Cancer Research UK. This research revealed that Natera’s test was able to identify 89 per cent of relapses of all types. However, even more important is that it is possible to do so almost nine months earlier than standard imaging tests are able to.

The study involved taking 49 patients with several different types of early-stage breast cancer, including HER2-positive, hormone receptor-positive, and triple-negative. Blood tests were then taken every six months for the next four years, and the results were checked against other diagnostic methods to confirm their accuracy.

Professor Charles Coombes, professor of medical oncology at Imperial College London, said: “Standard technologies for the detection of cancer recurrence have always been imprecise.

“With this innovative method of detecting minimal residual breast cancer, we now have the opportunity to conduct trials of treatments to prevent patients relapsing with symptomatic metastatic breast cancer.”

Image Credit: SezeryadigarADNFCR-1780-ID-801850073-ADNFCR

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