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Blood test predicts return of breast cancer

By June 5, 2024No Comments

A new type of blood test can predict the recurrence of breast cancer in high-risk patients, months or even years before they relapse, research has shown.

A team from The Institute of Cancer Research, London, used an ultra-sensitive liquid biopsy to detect the presence of tiny amounts of cancer DNA left in the body following treatment for early breast cancer.

The findings, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago last weekend, involved analysing blood samples from the ChemoNEAR sample collection study for circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) that is released into the bloodstream by cancer cells.

The researchers were able to identify all patients from the study who later went on to relapse by detecting very low levels of cancer found in the blood – known as molecular residual disease.

Blood samples from 78 patients with different types of early breast cancer were screened for ctDNA. Molecular residual disease was detected in all 11 patients who relapsed. The median lead time to clinical relapse in this group of patients was 15 months, an increase of over three months, compared with current tests in all types of breast cancer.

None of the 60 women in whom ctDNA remained undetected, relapsed throughout the follow-up period. Three patients had ctDNA detected in follow-up but had not relapsed by the end of the study – the researchers didn’t have samples to analyse beyond the study follow-up period.

By helping to spot the patients most likely to relapse, the ICR scientists hope the results will pave the way for a new strategy for treating recurrent breast cancer where treatment can be started much earlier, without waiting for incurable, advanced disease to develop and show up on a scan.

Ben Kemp