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Professor hails blood work that could detect early disease recurrence

‘This could revolutionize the way we treat breast cancer patients’: Professor applauds blood test that can detect early recurrence of the disease

  • Breast cancer that has been dormant in the body can come back in another part
  • Blood tests can spot signs of the disease coming back years before a scan could
  • The test picks up hereditary material shed by cancer cells in the blood

A blood test designed to detect early signs of breast cancer could revolutionize NHS treatment.

The test, which could save thousands of lives, picks up genetic material shed by cancer cells in the blood.

It could spot signs of the disease returning years before a scan could. By identifying women whose cancer is at risk of returning early, doctors can provide targeted treatment, which in some cases may prevent the cancer from coming back.

This is vital because breast cancer that has been dormant in the body can come back in another part, such as the brain, liver or lungs, and become incurable.

The test, which could save thousands of lives, picks up genetic material shed by cancer cells in the blood [File photo]

Now it is being trialled on more than 1,000 people with estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer.

About 40,000 women are diagnosed each year, and about 8,000 of them have a higher risk of the cancer returning.

The trial will be conducted in 20 centers for six months.

Professor Nicholas Turner, from The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the research, said: ‘The risk of recurrence for ER-positive breast cancer patients is spread over many years after initial treatment, which is one of the reasons why scans are ineffective at picking it up.

“Blood testing could become the standard way of following up on this group of patients, and if the trial produces encouraging results, it could revolutionize the way we treat ER-positive breast cancer patients.”

Now it is being trialled on more than 1,000 people with estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer.  About 40,000 women are diagnosed each year, and about 8,000 of them have a higher risk of the cancer returning [File photo]

Now it is being trialled on more than 1,000 people with estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. About 40,000 women are diagnosed each year, and about 8,000 of them have a higher risk of the cancer returning [File photo]

The trial will enroll women with ER-positive breast cancer who have had surgery and are on hormone therapy. They get a blood test every three months for up to three years to detect their risk of relapse.

The test, which uses the genetic fingerprint of a person’s cancer, can detect the DNA of cancer cells in their body at low levels.

This indicates a “molecular relapse,” suggesting that they are relapsing with cancer.

If the result shows very low levels of DNA from cancer cells in someone’s blood, they will be treated immediately.

Elaine Nangle, 41, from Reading, was diagnosed with stage three lobular breast cancer in 2020. Once she was cancer free, she was given the opportunity to take part in the trial at The Royal Marsden.

She said, “Being part of something that might pre-warn me of relapse is incredible and just knowing I’m being monitored so often gives me a huge safety net.”

The NHS is also conducting a world first with the ‘Galleri’ blood test, which aims to detect more than 50 types of cancer before symptoms appear, and could prevent one in ten cancer deaths in the UK.

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