UK Researchers Develop Blood Test for Breast Cancer Diagnosis

November 6, 2019
Seth Augenstein

A blood test which may detect the traces of developing breast cancer through autoantibodies years before clinical signs show themselves is now proposed by researchers in the United Kingdom.

A blood test which may detect the traces of developing breast cancer through autoantibodies years before clinical signs show themselves is now proposed by researchers in the United Kingdom.

The diagnostic was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (UK) annual conference on Sunday.

A panel of tumor-associated antigens may provide an early-warning system for breast tumors, according to the research.

“We identified antigen panels of sufficient sensitivity and specificity for early detection of breast cancer based upon serum profiling of autoantibody response,” according to the abstract. “This opens the possibility of a blood test for screening and detection of breast cancer.”

The blood samples were taken from 180 subjects; 90 women at the time of cancer diagnosis, and 90 controls.

The protein microarray screened the blood samples for biomarkers: 40 tumor-associated antigens associated with breast cancer, and 27 tumor-associated antigens not linked to the disease, according to the work.

The 3 panels of autoantibodies showed progressively increasing accuracy. The test with 5 tumor-associated antigens detected breast cancer in 29% of the samples, and correctly flagged 84% of the control samples as cancer-free; the diagnostic for the 7 tumor-associated antigens showed 35% of cancer cases and no cancer in 79% of the controls; and the 9-marker test identified cancer in 37% of cases and identified no cancer in 79% of the controls.

“We were able to detect cancer with reasonably accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood,” Daniyah Alfattani, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, said during the presentation. “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.”

Further testing is now ongoing with 800 patients using a panel of 9 tumor-associated antigens, according to the scientists.

The NCRI said the concept was “something we’d all like to see working in practice.”

“The results from this pilot study for a blood test to detect early breast cancer are promising and build on this research group’s expertise in other cancer, such as lung cancer,” said Iain Frame, CEO of NCRI. “It’s obviously early days but we look forward to seeing the results from the larger group of patients that are now being investigated.”

REFERENCES
Alfattani D. Clinical Utility of Autoantibodies in Early Detection of Breast Cancer. Presented at: 2019 NCRI Cancer Conference; November 3-5, 2019; Glasgow, UK.

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