I always hope I could be life-long free from cancer. If I had to get one, I hope I know it even before any symptoms occur. Most people agree that the earlier you are diagnosed to have a cancer or a sign to have one, the larger the chances are that you can be cured.
Scientists have developed a blood test which can identify the body’s immune response to substances produced by tumor cells, so that doctors can detect breast cancer 5 years before there are any clinical signs of it.
How this works
Cancer cells can produce proteins called antigens which can trigger the body to make antibodies against them called autoantibodies.
Researchers from the UK found that the tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) are good indicators of cancer, so they use the TAAs linked with breast cancer to develop panels of them to detect if there are autoantibodies of them in blood samples taken from patients.
The pilot study
Researchers compared the blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients and 90 patients without breast cancer. By analyzing the TAAs in the blood samples, they found 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer, and 27 TAAs that were not.
This pilot study proved that autoantibodies were related to breast cancer, and that researchers were able to identify the autoantibodies with reasonable accuracy.
In the experiment, researchers use the panels with different amount of TAAs to detect whether the blood samples are from patients with cancer or not. The results are showed as followings.
Accuracy in cancer samples
Accuracy in samples without cancer
Panel of 5 TAAs
Panel of 7 TAAs
Panel of 9 TAAs
Accuracy in cancer samples refers to the accuracy rate of correct breast cancer detection, which accuracy in samples without cancer refers to the accuracy rate of correct non-breast cancer detection.
"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." Said Ms Daniyah Alfattani, Ph.D.
Current study and future development
The researchers are now testing samples from 800 patients against a panel of nine TAAs, and they expect the accuracy of the test to improve with these larger numbers.
Early diagnosis with simple, non-invasive ways of detecting the first signs of cancer sheds light to future cancer detection. “I look forward to seeing the results from the larger group of patients that are now being investigated,” as Dr. Iain Frame, CEO of National Cancer Research Institute, says.