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New Life-Saving Blood Test Detects Recurring Breast Cancer a Year Earlier than Usual

Tim Boyer's picture

At the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researcher Daniel Rafferty, Ph.D. reports that he and his company have developed a new blood test that is more sensitive and can detect recurring breast cancer up to one year earlier than the usual tests allow.

Approximately 1 in every 5 breast cancer survivors will have a recurring breast cancer within 10 years of treatment. To monitor the chance of a recurring breast cancer, doctors and their patients have to rely on a biomarker called “CA 27.29” to alert them. However, one problem with this biomarker is that it typically detects the recurring cancer relatively late—after symptoms of the cancer have already appeared.

Ideally, a simple and effective biomarker that allows early recurring breast cancer detection is needed as research has shown that the earlier the recurring cancer is detected and treated, the more likely that lives will be saved.

As it turns out Dr. Rafferty has recently presented evidence at the American Chemical Society meeting that he and his team of researchers have discovered a type of early warning system consisting of multiple biomarkers made up of specific metabolites that are expressed by cancerous cells. Metabolites are small cellular byproducts that can eventually wind up in detectable levels in the urine or bloodstream. These metabolites create a metabolite profile in patients that can be linked to specific diseases. Dr. Rafferty’s idea was to use these metabolites as a new type of biomarkers for cells that had turned cancerous.

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Dr. Rafferty states that, “We have identified a group of nine biomarkers that signal recurrence of breast cancer. Our markers detect twice as many recurrences as the CA marker does at the same specificity. They also detect cancer recurrence earlier, about 11-12 months sooner than existing tests. They accomplish this with blood samples, rather than biopsies, with less discomfort to patients.”

To test for recurring cancer a breast cancer survivor would periodically have some blood drawn that would then be scanned with a mass spectrometer for metabolites associated with cancerous cells. The biomarker CA 27.29 test would also be performed in conjunction with the metabolite scan and the results combined and analyzed.

“We take both of those results together and roll them into the profile so that the score we generate is a combination of the CA value and our nine metabolites,” says Dr. Rafferty. “If the score indicates that the cancer probably has returned, the patient would then likely undergo imaging tests to locate the tumor.”

The significance of their research is that not only will breast cancer survivors will be alerted if a cancer returns, but that the use of metabolites could potentially also be used to detect cancer at its earliest stages in new cancer patients. Additional supporting studies are currently in progress and this new blood test may become available by year’s end.

Image Source: Courtesy of Morgue File

Reference: American Chemical Society news release