31 Aug 2015 02:24 PM EST
Over six percent of women who beat breast cancer see it return less than 10 years later.
A new blood test is hoping to put the waiting game to an end by predicting breast cancer relapse before a new tumor has the chance to form.
The test was developed by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. The test requires only a blood sample, instead of invasive biopsies and other tests, and it looks for small amounts of leftover cancer cells.
The test works by looking for cancer DNA in the patient’s blood, and it is proving to be accurate in predicting who will suffer a relapse. The test was able to find residual cancer DNA in women an average of nearly eight months before any visible signs could be detected
To find the cancer DNA, the team uses “mutation tracking,” a method which determines the specific mutations found in an individual’s cancer cells.
Lead author on the study, Dr. Nicholas Turner, said in a statement that this study “used blood tests to build a picture of how the cancer was evolving over time, and this information could be invaluable to help doctors select the correct drugs to treat the cancer."
It will be a couple of years at least before this test will actually be used by doctors and hospitals, but the team plans to start clinical trials by next year.
"Ours in the first study to show that these blood tests could be used to predict relapse,” says Dr. Turner.
The test can also be used to study the way cancer evolves over time, and how it mutates to resist treatments.
Another member of the research team, Professor Paul Workman, states: "We are moving into an era of personalized medicine for cancer patients. This test could help us stay a step ahead of cancer by monitoring the way it is changing and picking treatments that exploit the weakness of the particular tumor.”
Professor Workman concludes: “It is really fantastic that we can get such a comprehensive insight about what is going on in the cancer all over the body, without the need for invasive biopsies.”
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