Annual mammograms give doctors the best chance at detecting breast cancer in its early stages when it can be treated and may be cured, according to The National Cancer Institute. And now scientists are developing a new breast cancer screening in the form of a blood test that may be able to detect breast cancer five years before the presentation of clinical symptoms.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham used the presence of tumor-associated antigens (TAAs), proteins produced by cancer cells, and their resulting autoantibodies (antibodies produced by the immune system) to detect cancer in humans. In the pilot study, researchers took blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they were diagnosed with breast cancer before matching them with blood samples taken from 90 patients without breast cancer. Then, they tested the blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies and 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer (along with 27 TAAs that were not known to be linked with the disease).
“The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens. We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood,” said Daniyah Alfattani, a PhD student, at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference. The research suggests that in the future future breast cancer could be detected and treated earlier, but according to Constance Chen, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction, the blood test’s wide availability is far off.