Researchers at the University in Nottingham are testing a new way to detect breast cancer that could save lots of lives in the future.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England have reportedly developed a revolutionary blood test that could detect breast cancer up to five years before any clinical signs emerge. The test works by identifying the response of the body's immune system to substances produced by tumor cells. As cancer cells produce proteins called antigens, our bodies are automatically triggered to produce autoantibodies in order to fight them. The team of researchers claims that these tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are good indicators of cancer. Therefore, researchers have developed panels of TAAs commonly associated with breast cancer and are in the process of identifying whether there are autoantibodies against them in blood samples taken from patients, The Daily Mail reports.
At present, the research team is sure of several TAAs which can be easily detected up to five years before clinical signs of a cancerous tumor. So far, the researchers were able to detect three panels of TAAs against which to test for autoantibodies. They were able to come to this conclusion after testing blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they first received their diagnoses. They matched these samples with 90 other participants who were not diagnosed with breast cancer. The findings from the team's research were recently presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Glasgow.
Daniyah Alfattani, a Ph.D. student in the research group, stated, "The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens. We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood." However, there is more to be done. She explained, "We need to develop and further validate this test. However, these results are encouraging and indicate that it's possible to detect a signal for early breast cancer. Once we have improved the accuracy of the test, then it opens the possibility of using a simple blood test to improve early detection of the disease."
However, some believe that the team may be getting ahead of themselves. Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge claimed, "These are clearly very preliminary data and a lot more research would be needed before any claim can be made that this is likely to represent a meaningful advance in the early detection of cancer. I think it is too soon to even claim that the research is promising." Nonetheless, the University of Nottingham research team hopes to find more compelling evidence of the test's efficacy as they continue their study.