Could a simple blood test predict breast cancer relapse?

Mutation-tracking blood test could predict breast cancer relapse months in advance

early-stage-breast-cancer image
Researchers report that circulating tumor DNA in patients’ blood can be used to predict the likelihood of early-stage breast cancer recurring after apparently curative treatment. C. Bickel / Science Translational Medicine.

Scientists have developed a blood test for breast cancer able to identify which patients will suffer a relapse after treatment, months before tumours are visible on hospital scans.

2015 Study Abstract

Predicting whether a cancer patient will relapse remains a formidable challenge in modern medicine. Fortunately, circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) present in the blood may give clues on residual disease—cancer cells left behind to seed new tumors even after treatment. Garcia-Murillas et al. developed a personalized ctDNA assay based on digital polymerase chain reaction to track mutations over time in patients with early-stage breast cancer who had received apparently curative treatments, surgery, and chemotherapy. Mutation tracking in serial samples accurately predicted metastatic relapse—in several instances, months before clinical relapse (median of ~8 months). Such unprecedented early prediction could allow for intervention before the reappearance of cancer in high-risk patients. In addition, the authors were able to shed light on the genetic events driving such metastases, by massively parallel sequencing of the ctDNA, which could inform new drug-based therapies on the basis of the patients’ individual mutations.

Sources and More Information
  • New ‘mutation-tracking’ blood test could predict breast cancer relapse months in advance, MedicalXpress, August 26, 2015.
  • Mutation tracking in circulating tumor DNA predicts relapse in early breast cancer, Science Translational Medicine: Vol. 7, Issue 302, pp. 302ra133, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab0021, 26 Aug 2015.

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