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Discovery could mean new test for catching breast cancer early

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healthcare and medicine concept - womans hands holding pink breast cancer awareness ribbon
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Pol Allingham via SWNS

Newly discovered protein changes in the blood could pave the way for a new test to catching breast cancer up to two years early.

Today (November 16) researchers revealed they found the levels of six proteins in people’s blood changed before they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

They claimed this could form the basis of blood testing to catch the disease early in those who are genetically predisposed or have a family history of breast cancer.

Blood tests are relatively simple and painless, meaning this could become a screening method offered whenever people needed.

Catching the disease early reduces the chance of death.

Presenting the findings at the 13th European Breast Cancer Conference, Sophie Hagenaars from Leiden University Medical Center said: “These proteins could form the basis for a blood test for early detection of breast cancer in women at a higher risk.

“It’s important to note that we found more variation in the protein levels in the blood samples between women, compared to over time within the same woman who developed breast cancer.

“This shows that testing should probably be based both on proteins that differ between women with and without breast cancer and on proteins that alter in an individual person over time.

“If further research validates our findings, this testing could be used as an add-on to existing screening techniques.

“Blood tests are relatively simple and not particularly painful for most people, so people could be offered screening as often as needed.”

The results came from the Trial Early Serum Test Breast (TESTBREAST) cancer study initiated in 2011.

healthcare and medicine concept. Woman hand holding pink breast cancer awareness ribbon.
(Maples Images via Shutterstock)

Currently, the study includes 1,174 women who are at high risk of breast cancer because of family history or carrying gene variants known to raise breast cancer risk.

TESTBREAST women are cared for at nine Dutch hospitals where they are offered breast screening at a younger age and more regularly than other residents in The Netherlands carrying an average risk of breast cancer.

Women taking part in the study have been given blood samples at least once a year for ten years when they go for a screening.

If they develop breast cancer they give samples when they are diagnosed too.

Leiden University Medical Center researchers used mass spectrometry to analyze the levels of different proteins in the women’s blood.

They looked at changes between women and the variations in individual women over time.

The team made detailed analyses of 30 blood samples from three women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and three who had not.

They discovered distinct differences - a group of six proteins were at higher or lower levels one or two years prior to a breast cancer diagnosis.

Next, the team will validate their discovery in a large group of TESTBREAST women with and without breast cancer.

Dr. Laura Biganzoli, who was not involved in the research, is co-chair of the European Breast Cancer Conference and Director of the Breast Centre at Santo Stefano Hospital, Italy.

"Women at a high risk of developing breast cancer take part in screening programs at fixed time points," she said.

“If this research ultimately results in a blood test for people with a high risk of breast cancer, that could guide personalized screening and help to diagnose breast cancer at the earliest possible stage.”

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