New Blood Test For Breast Cancer

A new tumor marker blood test for breast cancer is moving into a testing phase in the UK.  This blood test has the potential of diagnosing breast cancer before there are any visible signs of the disease.  The blood test would be very beneficial for younger women for whom mammograms are less effective.  Currently the CA 27.29 is the best blood test for breast cancer.  The level of CA 27.29 antigen in the blood increases as breast cancer progresses.  However, the CA 27.29 blood test is not highly sensitive or specific, meaning that it can result in false positives.

Simple blood test may help detect breast cancer

TheMedGuru.com: April 5, 2010

In what can be termed as a major breakthrough for an early diagnosis of breast cancer, a less invasive method may be on its way.

According to researchers, a simple blood test may detect breast cancer at the earliest stages, which will bring us a step closer to cure the killer disease that afflicts thousands of women each year.

The simple test would not only be a means to detect the disease when it’s still curable but the procedure would bypass unnecessary biopsies and all the anxiety and risks.

Dr James Mackay an oncologist and researcher at University College London who is helping to launch the test in the UK for private patients stated, “This test will be particularly useful for younger women who are at risk of developing breast cancer. They tend to have denser breast which mammograms cannot easily penetrate.

“What we are suggesting is that they have a mammogram and combine it with this test so that there is a greater chance of detection.”

The potential of the blood test

The general technique for breast cancer involves x –rays which detect the tumor only once it is enlarged and well on its way to spreading beyond the breast.

Additionally, there is a strong possibility of the tumors being missed altogether in a quarter of the cases especially younger women.

The new blood test, a brainchild of Diagenic ASA a Norwegian company, can pinpoint cancer long before the traditional scans currently in operation.

According to experts, a tumor the size of a small seed can be detected even before a woman has developed any symptom.

The process identifies elevated levels of chemical “markers” for cancer which are then picked up as blood flows through a tumor.

However, the scientists advise that a combination of the traditional mammography with the latest test would enhance the odds of tumor detection.

“We believe this technology has huge potential. There are many women, especially women below 50, for whom mammography can miss 20 to 30 per cent of their cancers.” remarked Dr Erik Christensen, the chief executive, DiaGenic.

Moreover, women found to have cancer by the test can then be given an MRI scan so that the tumor can be picked out, biopsied and then removed if the necessity arises.

Initial trials show promise

In the small trails conducted, it has shown promise in 75 per cent of the cases. Also it has saved one woman from losing both her breasts.

Dr Mackay said, “The lady was sent to us by a surgeon because she had several lumps in each breast and he was convinced they were cancerous. We ran a blood test that showed they were benign and she has been saved from horrendous surgery.”

The test is currently available at a private Harley Street clinic for £499 and doctors are optimistic that it shall be available for the general public on the Health Service within the next five years.

Need for more research

Researchers concede that despite the technology exhibiting a lot of potential, there is need for bigger trials before establishing the benefits of the test and recommending it for women at high risk.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at London’s St George’s Hospital, said, “We need more trials before this can be taken on by the NHS but it is an interesting development.

“The results so far are interesting and it would be an extremely useful advance which could be combined with a mammogram to find tumors at an early stage.”

by Neharika Sabharwal

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