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Home News and Update Year 2012 Blood test to tell breast cancer soon

Blood test to tell breast cancer soon

Times Of India
6 Jun 2012

Hopes Rise As Scientists Find Tumour Cells In Blood, Not Only Lymphatic System

New Delhi: A simple blood test could soon be available to better diagnose and treat early–stage breast cancer patients. In a major breakthrough published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, scientists from Texas have announced that they have discovered a method that detects circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in the blood.

Looking at 302 patients with breast cancer, the researchers identified CTCs in the blood of 24% of the group. They found that the presence of CTCs accurately predicted both progression-free survival and overall survival. Up to 15% of patients who tested positive for CTCs relapsed, and 10% died during the study period (February 2005–December 2010) as compared to just 3% and 2% respectively of those who did not test positive for CTCs.

For patients with 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% dying or relapsing during the study period. Currently, diagnosis of early–stage breast cancer relies on lymph-node removal, which can have unpleasant side-effects.

Usually, tumours are believed to spread through the lymphatic system rather than the bloodstream. The team investigated whether CTCs could be found in the blood of patients at an earlier stage of the disease, where the cancer has not spread beyond its original location (non–metastatic). Looking at 302 patients with breast cancer, the researchers identified CTCs in the blood of 24% of the group.

Lead researcher professor Anthony Lucci, from the department of surgical oncology, University of Texas, said, "The findings raise hope that in future, blood tests could be used to provide improved diagnosis and treatment for early–stage breast cancer patients."

Prof P K Jhulka, clinical oncology, AIIMS, said his department was also testing CTCs as a viable option for better diagnosis of breast cancer. "Looking at CTCs in blood is a good method. First, we see CTCs in the blood and we give chemotherapy. After 2-3 cycles of chemo, we assess CTCs, which tells us the response of chemo. If CTCs decrease, it means the tumor cells are responsive. The patient does not need to undergo repeated biopsies," he added.

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