Researchers at Nottingham University’s School of Medicine present their cost-effective method of detecting breast cancer much before patients experience clinical symptoms of the disease.
Thanks to a promising new blood test, breast cancer could be detected five years before patients experience any clinical symptoms. The claim was made during a presentation at the 2019 NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow on Sunday. According to The Guardian, researchers are developing a test that could identify the body's immune response to the substances produced by tumor cells. However, many cancer experts are now waving a cautionary flag in response to this innovative treatment.
The study led by researchers at Nottingham University’s School of Medicine explains how they decided to focus on antigens released in the body. Antigens are proteins produced by cancerous cells, which trigger the creation of auto-antibodies to fight these invading substances. This research focused on the detection of specific auto-antibodies through a blood test to find out if they were triggered by cancerous cells.
In order to prove this theory, the scientists who were a part of the Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC) group at the School of Medicine, University of Nottingham launched a pilot study, where they collected blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients who were already diagnosed with the disease at the time. They then compared these samples with 90 other individuals from a control group who were not suffering from the disease. Finally, they conducted a screening to identify the presence of auto-antibodies which were specifically triggered by tumor antigens.
Breast cancer may be detected by blood test five years before clinical signs show https://t.co/JnnCMMi5cZ— Guardian Science (@guardianscience) 3 November 2019
Conclusively, they accurately identified breast cancer in 37% of blood samples taken from patients with cancer. Furthermore, they determined that there were no signs of cancer in 79% of samples taken from the control group. Referring to the findings as highly encouraging, the group explained that the results of the experiment indicated a possibility of early detection of breast cancer through this method. A Ph.D. student in the group, Daniyah Alfattani, said, "The results of our study showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumor-associated antigens."
I sure hope so, going thru metastatic BC now & found out I have Lynch syndrome. A blood test would save millions of lives and a lot of money.— Lady Dragonfly (@RobinDuehring) 3 November 2019
"We were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood. Once we have improved the accuracy of the test, then it opens the possibility of using a simple blood test to improve early detection of the disease," added Alfattani who was present during the annual conference conducted by National Cancer Research Institute held on Sunday. "We have found that these tumor-associated antigens are good indicators of cancer. However, we need to develop and further validate this test," he added.
Furthermore, he said, "We need to develop and further validate this test. However, these results are encouraging and indicate that it's possible to detect a signal for early breast cancer. Once we have improved the accuracy of the test, then it opens the possibility of using a simple blood test to improve early detection of the disease." There are other researchers and experts who urged the team to be cautious while interpreting these results. Professor Paul Pharoah, a cancer epidemiologist at Cambridge University said, "These are clearly very preliminary data. A lot more research would be needed before any claim can be made that this is likely to represent a meaningful advance in the early detection of cancer."
So far not a reliable test:— EPM (@almost_sapiens) 3 November 2019
Positive identification of cancer - 37%
Negative identification of NO cancer - 79%
Hopefully may be improved in time
Agreeing with Pharoah, Warwick University's molecular oncologist Professor Lawrence Young said, "While this is encouraging research, it is too soon to claim this test could be used to screen for early breast cancer. More work is needed to increase the efficiency and sensitivity of cancer detection." Currently, the Nottingham team is testing samples from 800 patients and is expecting to improve the accuracy of the test with larger numbers. "A blood test for early breast cancer detection would be cost-effective, which would be of particular value in low and middle-income countries. It would also be an easier screening method to implement compared with current methods, such as mammography," added Alfattani.
Estimating a time frame the group revealed, with a fully-funded development program, the test could be available at clinics in the next four-five years. They are also working on developing similar tests for pancreatic, colorectal and liver cancers. "A blood test capable of detecting any of these cancers at an early stage is the overriding objective of our work," said Alfattani while speaking of their vision.
In 90 patients tested, 37% successfully identified the disease! Too preliminary time endorse, I guess! What is the ideal success rate one needs to get endorsed by WHO or other organizations?— Prakash Hande (@manoorhande) 4 November 2019