Simple blood test that predicts if a woman's breast cancer is likely to return
Test detects genetic changes in DNA that could signal return of most common form of breast cancer
Early warning could spare some women unnecessary treatment with gruelling anti-cancer drugs

By
Fiona Macrae

PUBLISHED:

17:37 GMT, 18 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:21 GMT, 18 January 2013

A simple blood test could predict if the most common form of
breast cancer will come back after treatment, say scientists.

By providing an early warning the technique would spare some women
unnecessary treatment with gruelling anti-cancer drugs.

Researcher Sambasivarao Damaraju said: ‘If we can accurately
predict which women are at high risk of breast cancer recurrence, it gives the
physicians and oncologists treating these women time to design a more aggressive
therapy in the hopes of preventing the cancer from coming back.

The test detects genetic changes in DNA that could signal return of most common form of breast cancer

The test detects genetic changes in DNA that could signal return of most common form of breast cancer

‘Treatment strategies could be tailor-made for these women
based on their genetic make-up and how susceptible it makes them to breast
cancer recurrence.’

The kit, which is being developed in Canada, focuses on
something called luminal A breast cancer – the most common form of the
disease and the type generally thought to have the best prognosis.

However, with it making up around 60 per cent of the 50,000
cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year, it still accounts for a substantial
number of relapses and deaths.

The University of Alberta researchers tested blood samples
taken from women when they had been diagnosed with breast cancer years
previously.

The new test could spare some women unnecessary treatment for cancer

The new test could spare some women unnecessary treatment for cancer

Comparing the DNA of samples taken from women whose cancer
had returned with DNA of samples from women who had remained in remission
flagged up genetic changes linked to the cancer coming back, the journal PLoS
ONE.

Other predictor tests in development use the genes from the
cancer itself. But the Canadian researchers believe their technique will
be more accurate as it uses the DNA a person is born with to work out if they have
a predisposition to breast cancer recurring.

It is hoped that in future, the test could be used alongside
traditional microscopic techniques to improve the way breast cancer patients
are treated.

The Canadian charities that funded the research said it
would have a ‘substantial’ impact on ensuring women treated for breast cancer
‘continue to live cancer-free lives’.

More research and several years of large-scale testing is
needed before the test is marketed.

Cancer Research UK said that many scientists, including its
own, are trying to perfect such a test.