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New Techniques for Predicting Risk of Breast Cancer and Diagnosing it Early

New Techniques for Predicting Risk of Breast Cancer and Diagnosing it Early

At the recent Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research
Program "Era of Hope" meeting, held in Orlando, Fla, researchers presented
a prototype for a simple test that can rapidly screen tiny samples of tissue
for biomarkers of breast cancer.

"This technology allows for the simultaneous testing of many proteins
using a very small sample of blood or tissue," said Richard C. Zangar, PhD,
senior research scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. In addition, the test uses existing
technology, making it readily transferrable to the clinical setting.

Dr. Zangar and his colleagues demonstrated the sensitivity of the test by
using it to measure the hepatocyte growth factor, shown to be present at
elevated levels in recurrent breast cancer. The test detected significantly
higher levels of the growth factor in the blood of breast cancer patients
compared to controls. These findings were reported in the May/June 2002 issue of
the Journal of Proteome Research.

"There are literally hundreds of potential markers," said Dr.
Zangar. "And with this technology, you can screen hundreds of markers very
quickly."

Genotype, Family History, and Risk

Researchers have also identified a genotype associated with breast cancer in
recently diagnosed women who claim a first-degree relative (mother and/or
sister) with the disease. Among women diagnosed at age 50 years or older, the
link is even stronger.

"Women in the United States whose mother or sister has had breast cancer
have twice the risk of developing the disease by age 85 as women in the general
population," said Eldon R. Jupe, PhD, Immunobiology and Cancer Program,
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City.

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