New blood test could detect breast cancer recurrence

Researchers from London say they have found a new blood test that can detect breast cancer DNA months before it would show up on medical scans. The blood test is not yet available because it is still in the early stages of research. However, the research looks quite promising.


Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women. One of the major challenges in treating women with breast cancer has been determining who is at risk for experiencing a recurrence after having been treated. This new test could be the answer.

The study involved 55 people and the researchers analyzed the DNA that was abnormal in the breast cancer tumor. They took early tumors and identified what the mutations were. As you may know, all cancers have mutations. When a tumor’s DNA develops cancerous mutations, they rapidly proliferate, and cause a growing tumor. They then isolated it and developed a blood test which follows the blood in women who have previously had breast cancer to see if their breast cancer recurred.

The results showed that among the fifteen women who had breast cancer recurrences, they found it early in twelve out of the fifteen. The other three women unfortunately experienced metastasis to the brain in which case they may not have been able to find it in the blood anyways since it already spread beyond the breast. This is groundbreaking because it could eventually mean that we may be able to determine that breast cancer (or any cancer) is metastasizing, or spreading, before it actually does.

According to a study published in Science Translation Medicine, women who test positive for breast cancer tumor DNA after having breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy are twelve times as likely to experience a recurrence compared to women who test negative for tumor DNA. Being able to predict the metastasis of cancer would allow patients to be treated before the disease spreads beyond the tumor site.

Key statistics for breast cancer

·         Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, other than skin cancer.

·         About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

·         It is estimated that in 2015 in the United States, 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women.

·         White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. However, in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women.

·         African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer.

·         The highest risk of recurrence for breast cancer patients is during the first two years following treatment.