A team of Norwegian scientists have devised a blood test that they believe can detect the early onset of breast cancer sooner than conventional screening methods.
The scientists, from the Oslo-based DiaGenic ASA, developed a simple blood test that can pick up on chemical levels that are markers for breast cancer as the blood flows through a tumor.
The blood test is already available to private patients in the UK and after rigorous testing and more trials it is hoped that the test will be more widely available to all women in the UK on the National Health Service (NHS). One such private patient has already been spared the trauma of having a double mastectomy thanks to this new test. She had multiple lumps on her breasts that a surgeon believed was cancer. After taking the blood test for £499 (approximately $757.00) it was found the tumors were benign.
Currently the test has been 75 percent accurate at detecting early breast cancer in small trials.
“We believe this technology has huge potential. There are many women, especially women below 50, for whom mammography can miss 20 to 30 percent of their cases,” says Dr. Erik Christensen, chief executive of DiaGenic.
The test is currently being evaluated by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Science (NICE) and trials will start in 2011 on the NHS with 6,000 women deemed at high risk of developing breast cancer.
Conventional mammograms are only capable of picking up tumors once they have grown large enough, often three or four times bigger, and may have unfortunately already spread. The blood test can detect a tumor the size of a small seed and before the development of any symptoms.
“The test will be particularly useful for younger women who are at risk of developing breast cancer. They tend to have denser breast which mammograms cannot easily penetrate,” says Dr. James Mackay, oncologist and researcher at University College, London, who is assisting in the launch to private patients. “What we are suggesting is that they have a mammogram and combine it with this test so that there is a greater chance of detection,” Mackay continues.