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New Blood Test Can Predict Future Breast Cancer

Apr 15, 2015 01:30 PM EDT
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A new blood test can predict future cases of breast cancer, opening new doors to better prevention and early treatment of the disease.

"The method is better than mammography, which can only be used when the disease has already occurred. It is not perfect, but it is truly amazing that we can predict breast cancer years into the future," Rasmus Bro, a professor of chemometrics in the Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen, said in a press release.

It should be noted that the new method has been tested only for a single population and needs to be validated more widely before it can practically be used to predict breast cancer - one of the most common cancers in women around the world.

Nevertheless, this blood test could create a paradigm shift in early diagnosis of breast cancer as well as other diseases.

"The potential is that we can detect a disease like breast cancer much earlier than today. This is important as it is easier to treat if you discover it early. In the long term, it will probably also be possible to use similar models to predict other diseases," added Lars Ove Dragsted, who was involved in the research.

So how exactly did researchers develop this new blood test? What they did was analyze all compounds a blood sample contains instead of - as is often the case - examining what a single biomarker means in relation to a specific disease.

"When a huge amount of relevant measurements from many individuals is used to assess health risks - here breast cancer - it creates very high quality information. The more measurements our analyses contain, the better the model handles complex problems," Bro explained.

While the new method doesn't reveal anything about the importance of the single biomarkers in relation to breast cancer, it does show the importance of a set of biomarkers and their interactions.

"No single part of the pattern is actually necessary nor sufficient. It is the whole pattern that predicts the cancer," said Dragsted.

When someone is in a pre-cancer state, apparently how certain compounds (metabolites) in our blood are processed changes. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : Flickr: Ed Uthman) Pictured: Invasive Micropapillary Carcinoma of the Breast

The researchers used this information to create their blood test, and to determine its effectiveness. They studied a population of 57,000 women followed by the Danish Cancer Society over a span of 20 years, collecting their blood samples at the beginning of the study.

About 400 of these women were healthy when they were first examined, but were diagnosed with breast cancer two to seven years later. They also looked at 400 women who did not develop breast cancer during the course of the study.

They found that the new metabolic blood profile can predict the likelihood of a woman developing breast cancer within the next two to five years with a sensitivity of a staggering 80 percent.

That's compared to a typical mammography, which can detect newly developed breast cancer with a sensitivity of 75 percent.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women everywhere, with over 220,000 people diagnosed with the disease in the United States each year (based on 2011 data), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This new blood test certainly could soon lead to better prevention and early treatment of the disease, but until it is regularly used in the medicinal field, it's important that women starting from age 50 get regular mammogram screenings to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer.

The results were recently published in the journal Metabolomics.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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