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A Blood Test to Detect Recurrence

Posted 4/16/2014

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  First the caveat: This blood test is probably five years away from clinical use. Second caveat: it is unclear what the absolute value of knowing so soon that breast cancer has recurred might be. At this point, there is no survival benefit in identifying a recurrent breast cancer in, say, March rather than in the following November. Whether it would make a difference to find it a year or more sooner is an unanswerable question.

  Scientists at Johns Hopkins have developed a blood test that discovers circulating breast cancer specific genes and seems to indicate new cancer activity. Here is a summary from Web MD:

 Blood Test Aims to Predict Breast Cancer's Return
Study found DNA-based screen was more than 90 percent accurate in predicting recurrence

-- A new blood test may one day help predict the recurrence of breast cancer and also a woman's response to breast cancer treatment, researchers report.

"We are able to do this with literally a spoonful of serum [blood]," said study co-author Saraswati Sukumar, who is co-director of the breast cancer program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

Once a patient's blood is collected, the researchers isolate circulating tumor DNA. The genetics test then detects any of 10 breast cancer-specific genes that have undergone what experts call hypermethylation.

In the hypermethylation process, the activity of some genes that keep cancers in check is turned off, and that may signal a return of the cancer.

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