Breast cancer is a serious disease in which breast cells start to grow abnormally, resulting in the formation of tumours but a new blood test known as “ultra-sensitive” is believed to predict the recurrence of breast cancer before it shows up on scans like mammograms. The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London recently conducted a blood test trial on 78 patients with different types of early breast cancer where the team of researchers claimed that this new type of blood test can promise early detection of breast cancer recurrence and predict a relapse of the disease, years before it shows up on scans and before it becomes incurable.

Will your breast cancer come back? New blood test can predict with 100% accuracy. Here’s all you need to know (Image by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Nanda Rajaneesh, Visiting Consultant – Breast Onco Surgery and Bariatric Surgery at Sakra World Hospital in Bengaluru, opined, “Circulating tumour cells, consisting mostly of fragments from tumours and tumour DNA, can be detected microscopically in the blood. However, these circulating cancer cells are typically found only in advanced breast cancers. Detecting them in early-stage breast cancers remains challenging.”

According to the research, it states that this specific blood test uses advanced technologies to detect traces of tumour cells in the bloodstream. Dr Tirathram Kaushik, Consultant Oncosurgeon at Wockhardt Hospitals Mira Road, explained, “Early detection of these tumour cells at an initial stage can significantly help experts and doctors in providing prompt diagnosis. This can increase the chances of positive treatment outcomes and life expectancy. Every year one in three women gets diagnosed with breast cancer which can potentially impact their life and overall well-being.”

He elaborated, “Traditional ways of treating breast cancer like mammograms and biopsies are helpful but sometimes it becomes difficult to catch cancer at its early stage. A mammogram is a type of breast cancer screening where the breast is examined with the help of an X-ray image for further treatment. The ultra-sensitive blood test can work as a blessing to breast cancer patients in monitoring and detecting the growth of breast cancer. However, there is a need for more detailed research on this test and its effectiveness in combating breast cancer. Consult experts or doctors to know more about ultra-sensitive blood tests. This can help the patients understand the potential benefits and side effects of the test.”

The “liquid biopsy” of the “ultra-sensitive” test uses whole genome sequencing to look for genetic faults in a patient’s DNA, which can be a sign of cancer and can pick up traces of a tumour’s DNA ahead of a full relapse, when it is much harder to treat. Lead researcher Dr Isaac Garcia-Murillas, from the ICR, said, “Breast cancer cells can remain in the body after surgery and other treatments but there can be so few of these cells that they are undetectable on follow-up scans. These cells can cause breast cancer patients to relapse many years after their initial treatment. Ultra-sensitive blood tests could offer a better approach for the long-term monitoring of patients whose cancer is at high risk of returning.”

He highlighted, “Most personalised liquid biopsies currently use whole exome sequencing to identify mutations. But this approach goes one step further and uses whole genome sequencing to identify up to 1,800 mutations in a patient’s tumour DNA that could uniquely identify recurrence of the patient’s cancer from a blood sample. A more sensitive test is very important for this group of early breast cancer patients as they tend to have a very low amount of cancer DNA in their blood. This proof-of-principle retrospective study lays the groundwork for better post-treatment monitoring and potentially life-extending treatment in patients.”

The ultra-sensitive blood tests were found to be 100% accurate at predicting which patients would see their breast cancer come back hence, researchers assert that it could offer a better approach for the long-term monitoring of patients whose cancer is at high risk of returning.