Blood Test May One Day Predict Breast Cancer Relapse

An experimental blood test may one day detect the return of early stage breast cancer months before it is revealed by CT or MRI scans, researchers report.

The new test can detect DNA shed by tumors into the bloodstream before these stray cancer cells invade other organs, the British researchers said.

"Using a simple blood test, we might be able to better predict who is at risk of relapse," said lead researcher Dr. Nicholas Turner, of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

"If we can identify better who is at risk of relapse, we can direct treatments to prevent relapse specifically to them," he said. "Women who still have tumor DNA detectable have a high risk of going on to relapse."

Dr. Tilak Sundaresan, an oncologist with Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, who co-authored a commentary published with the report, said circulating tumor DNA analysis shows promise for the early detection of breast cancer recurrence in women who were treated for early stage disease.

By detecting small amounts of cancer before they spread more widely, it "offers a window of opportunity to treat the cancer while it is still theoretically curable," said Sundaresan.

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