(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- There are about 2.5 million women in the United States alone who are breast cancer survivors and they face a one in five chance that the cancer will return within ten years of treatment. Research has shown that early detection of recurrences and appropriate treatment can save their lives. Now, a new blood test can detect breast cancer recurrence a full year earlier and is twice as sensitive as current blood tests.
The new blood tests are bringing hope to breast cancer patients because the currently available tests are not very sensitive. The best test for a biological "marker" protein, called CA 27.29, misses many recurrences and when it does catch it it's usually almost too late, often after the patient is experiencing symptoms like bone pain or difficulty breathing.
"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," Daniel Raftery, Ph.D., lead reporter with Purdue University and Matrix-Bio, Inc, was quoted as saying.
Dr. Raftery and his colleagues analyzed hundreds of "metabolites" in breast cancer survivor's blood to find the markers. Metabolites, small molecules, are biological byproducts formed by the body's cells and are released into the urine or the bloodstream.
"Metabolite Profiling" is a rapidly emerging field in science. It seeks to understand how metabolites relate to health and disease. In fact, groups of metabolites have already been linked to numerous diseases. Dr. Raftery's biomarkers were known to be linked to cancer, but no one knew that his group of metabolites could serve as biomarkers for breast cancer recurrence. The markers are detected with a mass spectrometer and, according to Dr. Raftery, the markers can be used in combination with results from CA 27.29 blood tests.
Dr. Raftery hopes that the new test will become available later this year. "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," he said. "If the score indicates that the cancer probably has returned, the patient would then likely undergo imaging tests to locate the tumor," Dr. Raftery was quoted as saying.
SOURCE: American Chemical Society, March 2012