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Early stages of breast cancer could soon be diagnosed from blood samples: study

A new blood test may be able to detect the early stages of breast cancer, researchers say. Scheduled to begin vigorous clinical testing in early 2014, the test successfully identified the presence of breast cancer cells from serum biomarkers in preliminary testing, a huge step forward that could make breast cancer testing more widespread and more regularly detected early. The effect was seen both in a population of mice as well as a small human test group. While it may not be available to the public for years to come, the technology is a serious step forward, notes a press release obtained by EurekAlert. There are currently no inexpensive tests for breast cancer available.

“What we are trying to create is a non-invasive test that profiles what’s going on at a tissue site without having to do a biopsy or costly imaging,” said biomedical engineer Tony Hu, who led the team trying to create the test. “We think this could be better for patients and — if we are successful — a lot cheaper than the technology that exists. While there’s more to the cost of administering a test than materials alone, right now those materials only cost about $10 per test.”

The technology that the team used involves nanotechnology and advanced mass spectrometry which separates and detects extremely low levels of proteins, called peptides, created by CPN. The peptides are believed to originate on or near cancer cells, making them a good marker for whether a person has cancer. The team first analyzed animal and human biopsies for the presence and stage of breast cancer tissue, and then looked at the blood samples to see if they could interpret the same data from a different source. The method held true for early stages of breast cancer, but CPN levels dropped in later stages, suggesting that the test may only hold true for early detection, something the team plans to investigate further in the trials.

Not only does the test allow for the detection of breast cancer, but according to Hu it also reveals the stage of the breast cancer as well, Medical Daily reports. The early detection test for breast cancer is part of a wave of early detection research currently happening in oncology as researchers seek to save lives through early detection and treatment and to make the process more simplistic and accessible. Breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer are some of the areas of focus.