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New marker to detect breast cancer earlier

BRC-supported research has identified a new marker that can be used to detect breast cancer up to a year earlier than current methods.

For the first time, DNA changes, revealed by a blood test, can be used as a specific indicator to detect breast cancers earlier than current diagnosis methods. Earlier detection will mean that earlier treatment can be given with better patient outcomes. 

Researchers hope the sensitive test, which could revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, will be able to predict the onset of breast cancer before it can be detected by a breast x-ray (mammography). Currently mammographies often lead to diagnosis of a cancer that will never cause any symptoms (over-diagnosis); however using DNA in the blood is more accurate.

The blood test detects methyl groups (one carbon and 3 hydrogen atoms) that attach themselves to the DNA structure. The methyl groups can interfere with the function of genes, which is often one of the first stages in cancer development. 

Researchers can now detect these changes in a region of DNA called EFC#93. 

 Professor Martin Widschwendter, senior author of the study, said: “We found that the presence of EFC#93 DNA methylation in blood serum correctly identified 43% of women who went on to be diagnosed with fatal breast cancer within three to six months of giving serum samples.”

Another study will now be needed to assess whether women with these DNA changes, but no detectable cancer in mammographies, would benefit from anti-hormonal therapy.

For more information see the video from BiomedCentral

Image: Jomilo75  Source: Flickr