Once cancer settles in, an entire row of trials and tribulations unfolds, with regular visits to the doctor, diets, chemotherapy, permanent control and the constant fear that somehow it will make its way back in the body. Breast cancer can now be better controlled, as an experimental blood test may be able to predict whether a woman with breast cancer will suffer a relapse months before new tumors would be detectable on scans.
Bloodstreams are infected with cancer DNA and a simple blood test could signal the presence of malignant structures. Researchers are still working to improve their findings but a new hope is on its way to becoming reality.
Everything is still in an experimental phase and a few years will pass until the entire hypothesis will become palpable. Researchers believe that this is a new step towards finding a potential cure for cancer by refining personalized treatments and lead scientists further down the road of finding a general cure one day.
Scientists have taken tumor and blood samples from 55 breast cancer patients with early-stage disease. Each of the patients had received chemotherapy and surgery to remove the infection and blood test was performed following surgery and every six months afterwards, as a follow-up. Results were spectacular.
From the total amount of study subjects, 15 women relapsed. The test clearly predicted the relapse in 12 of them. Furthermore, the test has also detected cancer for an average of no less than eight months earlier than the tumors could be seen on regular scans.
These blood tests consist of personalized digital polymerase chain reaction tests which track mutations. They can be applied to all subtypes of breast cancer, so the use of blood tests could be highly useful to a wide range of patients.
In the following years, all the technical challenges which now prevent the implementation of this new technology will be surpassed. However, digital PCR is somewhat cost effective and the information it provides “could make a real difference to cancer patients”.
Improvement is highly necessary, as the test has also failed to find circulating tumor cells in the brain. The reason behind that could be that the blood-brain barrier interferes. This barrier acts like a filtering system which makes it almost impossible to see changes in the blood which circulates in the brain.
Breast cancer is generally diagnosed early in 95% of cases but clearly knowing whether or not treatment is able to remove all signs is key to preventing the tumors from returning and spreading everywhere in the body.