Breast cancer could soon be detected by a simple blood test, according to a team of scientists working to find easier ways to detect the disease which kills more than 500,000 people each year.
Scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) have been working with researchers in France to find new ways to detect and monitor breast cancer.
Breast cancer is usually detected through screening tests like mammograms, and if there’s uncertainty, invasive techniques such as biopsies. Once a disease has been diagnosed, other invasive evaluations are used throughout treatment to monitor the patient’s health, and to check for any signs of recurrence.
Lead researcher Professor Guillaume Tcherkez said a blood test would be cheaper and less invasive than other tests such as biopsies.
However, it is likely to take another ten years before it has been developed and they have evidence that is scientifically and medically suitable for a clinical testing.
“I think 10 years is the minimal time you need to redevelop things to provide evidence it works and also to provide evidence there is some potential clinical application that are scientifically and medically valid.”
“A blood test for breast cancer is several years away from being used in hospitals, but we think we have discovered a new way of detecting breast cancer in the first instance as well as ongoing monitoring,” Professor Tcherkez said.
The research team at ANU partnered with French scientists to analyse biopsy samples from healthy people and cancer patients in Western France. Scientists also looked at cultures to see different lines of cancer cells.
“Our research shows the presence of isotopes carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 in certain proportions in a tissue sample can reveal whether the tissue is healthy or cancerous,” co-researcher Dr Illa Tea told the University.
The research, published in the Scientific Reports journal, was a collaboration between the ANU, the University of Nantes, the University Hospital of Nantes and Angers in Pays de la Loire, France.
Professor Tcherkez said the ultimate goal was to save lives.
“It’s the goal for all bio-markers to try to save life and to be able to diagnose very early and to monitor efficiently breast cancer,” he said.