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Simple Blood Test can Help Diagnose Breast Cancer

 Simple Blood Test can Help Diagnose Breast Cancer

(epharmanews)- According to an article published Online First in the Lancet Oncology, early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and treatment could be improved by a simple blood test, scientists have recently discovered.

This study builds on earlier research that identified tumor cells circulating in the blood of metastatic (spreading) breast cancer contradicting what is generally know that tumors spread through lymphatic system not through blood stream.

Lead researcher, Professor Anthony Lucci from the Department of Surgical Oncology, University of Texas, USA and colleagues tried to find out whether it is possible to discover these tumor cells in the bloodstream of early-stage breast cancer patients, before the spreads to other parts of the body. They also looked at how the presence of tumor cells affected survival rates and progression of the disease.

“These studies identified that both progression-free and overall survival were worse in patients with one or more circulating tumor cells… the growing body of published work, including our study, suggests that assessment of circulating tumor cells might provide important prognostic information in these patients”, according to Professor Lucci.

Researchers looked at 302 patients with operable breast cancer and were able to identify circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood of 24% of the study group. They found that the presence of CTCs accurately predicted both progression-free survival and overall survival, with 15% of the patients who tested positive for CTCs relapsing, and 10% dying during the study period (February 2005 to December 2010), as compared to just 3% and 2%, respectively, of patients who did not test positive for CTCs.   For patients with a higher concentration of CTCs (three or more per 7.5ml of blood), the correlation with survival and progression rates was even more dramatic, with 31% of these patients dying or relapsing during the study period.

It should be noted that researchers are still in the early stage and further research is required before CTCs in blood can be used to guide clinical decision making. The study has only included patients who did not receive preoperative chemotherapy.  Since the effects of chemotherapy on CTC concentration are poorly understood, further research into this will be an important factor in developing CTC analysis into a useful diagnostic tool for early-stage breast cancer.

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Prepared by: Basel AlJunaidy

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