UCL News


Blood test can give early warning of breast cancer

4 August 2006

A blood test that can reveal if a woman has breast cancer - and at an earlier stage than is possible with current tests - has been shown to work in a trial led by a British-based scientist.

The results of the first trial, published today, also suggest that the method could be adapted to identify melanoma and detect prostate and ovarian cancers at the disease's "silent" phase, when a person looks and feels normal. …

There is an urgent need for a more effective way of screening for breast cancer, especially the rarer, though rising, cases in younger women for whom mammography is less sensitive.

As well as detecting the disease, blood tests could also allow differentiation of malignant breast cancers from benign ones and help to select the best treatment. …

While recent cancer research has focused on faulty genes that multiply out of control, this new test focuses on detecting simultaneous and subtle changes in the spectrum of proteins in the blood stream caused when the immune system begins to fight a cancer.

The feat is reported in the 'Journal of Proteome Research' by Professor Jasminka Godovac-Zimmermann [UCL Medicine], who headed the group, which included scientists from the universities of Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh and the company BioTraces, Inc in Herndon, Virginia.

"Our pilot studies show that using blood samples, breast cancer and several other types of epithelial cancers [ovarian, prostate, melanoma] can be detected with much better sensitivity and specificity," Prof Godovac-Zimmermann said.

"This may allow new, less intrusive, safer and much less expensive approaches for the early diagnosis of cancer, for distinguishing malignant and benign cancers and for monitoring cancer therapy." …

Roger Highfield, 'The Daily Telegraph'