A blood test will soon allow doctors to tailor breast cancer treatment individually in a breakthrough which they hope will save thousands of lives.
Until now, medics have relied on scans to tell them whether a tumour is responding to therapy.
But a test developed at Cambridge University could give them the earliest warning yet that a chosen approach is ineffective, allowing them to try an alternative.
It could be available for widespread use in less than three years, and the makers hope it will not only save or extend patients’ lives, but minimise the unpleasant side-effects associated with many treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Breakthrough: A blood test developed by scientists at Cambridge University could provide an early warning that certain breast cancer treatments are ineffective
In the study, backed by Cancer Research UK and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers took regular blood samples from 30 women with advanced breast cancer.
They looked at three markers in the blood to see if they reflected advancement or regression in the disease.
One of the indicators, ‘circulating tumour DNA’, was detected in 29 of the 30 participants where changes in their cancer had been identified.
Although the tests were carried out on women with metastatic breast cancer – an aggressive form of the disease which has spread to other organs – scientists suggest it should work on all breast cancer sufferers, allowing for tailored treatments.
In 2010, 49, 564 women and 397 men were diagnosed with breast cancer. A total of 11.633 died
In 2010, 49,564 women and 397 men were diagnosed with breast cancer, with 11,633 deaths.
Dr Sarah-Jane Dawson, who is based at Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute, said: ‘The main objective of the blood test is to see if someone is responding to their treatment and if not then switch them to an alternative therapy.
‘Hopefully this tailored approach will translate into better survival rates or in the case of those with metastatic cancer, extend their lives for as long as possible.
‘The next step is to integrate this technology into a clinical trial.
‘We anticipate it should be routinely used within the next two to three years.’ Currently, doctors monitor the progress of treatment by using scans to observe how the cancer is responding.
The blood tests give an earlier and more detailed ‘real time’ picture of changes taking place in the body.
Lead author Professor Carlos Caldas added: ‘This study highlights the potential of personalised cancer medicine.
‘Fragments of DNA are shed by cancer cells when they die, meaning they can be detected in blood samples using sensitive new sequencing techniques. The levels of tumour DNA tell us how the cancer is responding to treatment.’
Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: ‘These results hold the promise of a system that could allow us to modify someone’s treatment as their cancer changes, and they suggest an exciting way to quickly get hold of the personal details of a cancer, to target it for the most effective therapy.’
PERTUZUMAB OFFERS NEW HOPE FOR 10,000 WOMEN A YEAR
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2293027/Blood-test-shows-breast-cancer-therapy-working-allow-treatment-tailored-individual-sufferer.html#ixzz2NXWB0PnX
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook