Health

Professor hails blood test that could spot early return of the disease 

‘This could revolutionise how we treat breast cancer patients’: Professor hails blood test that could spot early return of the disease

  • Breast cancer which has lain dormant in the body can come back in another part
  • Blood test could spot signs of the disease returning years before a scan could
  • The test picks up genetic material shed by cancer cells into the blood 

A blood test designed to detect early signs of breast cancer could ‘revolutionise’ treatment on the NHS.

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

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

This is vital as breast cancer which has lain dormant in the body can come back in another part, like the brain, liver or lungs, and become incurable.

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

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

Now it is set to be trialled on more than 1,000 people with oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. 

Around 40,000 women are diagnosed each year and approximately 8,000 of these have a higher risk of the cancer returning.

The trial will be carried out at 20 centres over six months.

Professor Nicholas Turner, from The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the research, said: ‘The risk of relapse for ER positive breast cancer patients is spread out over many years after initial treatment, which is one of the reasons why scans aren’t effective in trying to pick it up.

‘Blood tests could become the standard way of following up with this group of patients, and if the trial produces encouraging results, this could revolutionise how we treat ER positive breast cancer patients.’

Now it is set to be trialled on more than 1,000 people with oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. Around 40,000 women are diagnosed each year and approximately 8,000 of these have a higher risk of the cancer returning [File photo]

Now it is set to be trialled on more than 1,000 people with oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. Around 40,000 women are diagnosed each year and approximately 8,000 of these have a higher risk of the cancer returning [File photo]

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

The test, using the genetic fingerprint of someone’s cancer, can detect the DNA of cancer cells in their body at low levels.

This indicates a ‘molecular relapse’, which suggests that they will relapse with cancer.

If the result shows very low levels of DNA from cancer cells in someone’s blood, they will receive immediate treatment.

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

She said: ‘Being part of something that may be able to give me forewarning of relapse is incredible and just knowing that I’m being monitored so frequently gives me a huge safety net.’

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


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