British scientists have developed a simple, inexpensive blood test that could warn breast cancer patients if they are about to relapse.
Using only four teaspoons of blood, the test can warn former breast cancer patients if the disease returns. The test can also detect cancer that has not been cured eight months before a tumor shows up on a scan or the patient detects a lump, reports Daily Mail.
The new test is the latest in a line of liquid biopsies. These biopsies seek out tiny tumor cells that circulate in the blood long before they take hold in the body and grow into tumors, according to NBC News.
A team of researchers at London’s Institute of Cancer Research sampled breast tumors from 55 patients with early-stage breast cancer. All of the women had been treated with chemotherapy and surgery and were considered cancer free.
DNA tests were ran to identify the precise genetic signature of each women’s tumor. Every six months after, for a period of two years, the patients’ blood was tested for cells containing their tumors’ unique genetic signature.
Breast cancer is usually cured by radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. However, the cancer is not always curable and often women receive more radiation than necessary.
Some female patients who are cured experience a relapse, and in some cases the metastatic cancer cells reestablish themselves in the form of tumors in new locations, including the liver and brain, reports Voice of America.
Chemotherapy doesn’t work on every patient. “What we need are tests to help work out whether there’s cancer left after chemotherapy to help us direct treatment,” said Dr. Nicholas Turner, an oncologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
What we know unfortunately is chemotherapy doesn’t work … in everybody. And what we need are tests to help work out whether there’s cancer left after chemotherapy to help us direct treatment.
During their research, 15 of the patients relapsed, but Turner and his team of colleagues were able to detect the cancer DNA in a dozen of the women before the tumors were visible with mammograms or other imaging.
Dr. Turner’s research was published in Science Translational Medicine.