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New blood test can predict relapse of breast cancer months before it appears on scans

The ultra-sensitive blood test is in its trial stages but has shown 100 percent accuracy in predicting the relapse of the disease.

New blood test can predict relapse of breast cancer months before it appears on scans
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Anna Shvets

The disease of cancer is not only painful but also heartbreaking. Early diagnosis is one of the most crucial aspects to fight against it. Even after successful recovery, the chances of relapse among cancer patients are high. However, a new and revolutionary ultra-sensitive blood test that can predict breast cancer's return has come into the picture. The incredibly exciting breakthrough can predict a tumor's return as early as 3 years before, per researchers, with the earliest being 41 months before it shows up on scans, per BBC. The test works by tracking the traces of a tumor's DNA in the blood and has proved 100% effective in predicting its return.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Tarazevich
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Anna Tarazevich

The efficacy of the test can help treat cancer in its early stages, improving the chances of a person's survival eventually. More than 2 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, making it the most prevalent type of the disease. New treatments have been devised in the past few years, but they often return and are in quite an advanced stage, per The Guardian. This new test will significantly help predict and manage its return. It can also help determine which woman might need preventative therapy. The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

The test is so sensitive that the researchers at Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre in London could predict each patient in the trial who would have a relapse, with the average time being 15 months. "Early detection is one of our greatest weapons against breast cancer and these initial findings, which suggest tests could be able to detect signs of breast cancer recurrence over a year before symptoms emerge, are incredibly exciting," Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, told the outlet.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Karolina Grabowska
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Karolina Grabowska

"While this research is still in its early stages, catching breast cancer recurrence earlier means treatment is much more likely to destroy the cancer and stop it spreading to other parts of the body, at which point it becomes incurable," Vincent added. "Breast cancer cells can remain in the body after surgery and other treatments, but there can be so few of these cells that they are undetectable on follow-up scans," revealed Isaac Garcia-Murillas, the study's lead author at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London. "These cells can cause breast cancer patients to relapse many years after their initial treatment," he further added. The test finds DNA released by cancer cells known as ctDNA before the cancer is seen on scans.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Martin Lopez
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Martin Lopez

Blood tests already existed previously, but this one detects a wider range of cancer cells, per Sky News. The reason behind this it focuses on the whole cancer genome instead of just the cancer cells that the disease produces. "A more sensitive test is very important for this group of early breast cancer patients as they tend to have a very low amount of cancer DNA in their blood," Dr. Garcia-Murillas pointed out. 78 women with different types of breast cancer took part in the study and out of them, 11 relapsed.

The test was able to predict every single outcome with accuracy. Blood samples were collected from women in different phases, including the time of diagnosis, after their second cycle of chemotherapy, after surgery and every three months for their follow-up in the next year. Doctors continue the test every six months for the next five years. "[The study] lays the groundwork for better post-treatment monitoring and potentially life-extending treatment in patients," Dr. Garcia-Murillas remarked. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Edward Jenner
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Edward Jenner

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