A simple blood test has been hailed as a “game changer” for women’s health, promising to better detect breast cancer at an early stage than mammograms.
The Trucheck test, which highlights circulating cancer cells, correctly detects 92 percent of breast cancers – around five percent more than mammography.
But the real breakthrough, scientists say, is improving its ability to detect early-stage breast cancers that are too small to scan, especially in younger women.
Professor Kefah Mokbel, a breast cancer surgeon who participated in the study, said the blood test would lead to a “paradigm shift” in breast cancer screening.
“Potentially, this test is a game-changer. It could change breast cancer screening,” he said.
A simple blood test that can better detect early stage breast cancer than mammograms has been hailed as a “game changer” for women’s health.
Dr Tim Crook, a medical oncologist at London Clinic Private Hospital, recommended it to patients and said the test could replace mammography, adding: “We have a huge problem in this country with late cancer diagnosis and it’s hard to think of ways to improve it.’
In the test, the nurse draws 5 ml of blood, which is processed to determine the presence of “circulating tumor cells” (CTCs). These cells are almost always produced by a cancerous tumor and are a very clear sign of cancer.
In a time-controlled study that included blood samples from 9,632 healthy women and another 548 with breast cancer, Trucek was able to correctly detect cancer where it was present in 92 percent of cases.
The test was perfect for late-stage cancer, where the tumor had spread outside the breast, detecting 100 percent of samples taken from women with stage 3 or 4 disease.
It was less accurate in identifying earlier-stage cancers that produce fewer CTCs, but the results were still impressive — identifying 96 percent of women with stage 2 disease whose tumors were mostly confined to the breast.
The accuracy was 89 percent for stage 1 cancer, where the cancer was small and confined to the breast. Even for so-called stage 0 “colon carcinoma in situ,” which are precancerous lesions that can turn into disease, it detected 70 percent of cases.
But the real breakthrough, scientists say, is its ability to detect early-stage breast cancers that are difficult to scan, especially in younger women.
There were no false positives — where the test suggests cancer is present, but none are found — and the other study found a handful.
In contrast, approximately one in ten positive mammograms is a false signal, leading to unnecessary treatment. Dr. Crook said the blood test has advantages over mammography, such as the absence of radiation, which increases the risk of cancer, and the “lack of need for infrastructure” like clinics.
Women in England are encouraged to have their first mammogram at age 50 and then every three years until age 71. Last year, only 62 percent of eligible women had an X-ray, partly due to the impact of the pandemic on services and attendance – a mean of 1.2. million people had mammograms, resulting in nearly 11,000 breast cancer diagnoses, and 750,000 not. A later diagnosis reduces the chance of survival.
Dr. Crook said if more women were diagnosed with breast cancer less frequently, it would dramatically improve overall outcomes.
Professor Kefah Mokbel predicted that the blood test would lead to a “paradigm shift” in breast cancer screening.
When seen in stages 1 and 2, cure rates exceed 90 percent “without high-tech treatment.”
The test can help women in their 40s who are not offered an NHS mammogram because they are less likely to detect lumps in the breast tissue that are common among younger women.
More than 10,000 women under the age of 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year – a fifth of all cases. Often, their cancer is not detected until it has spread.
Professor Mokbel, from Princess Grace Hospital London’s Breast Institute, said the blood test results, published in the journal Cancers, are a crucial step towards extending early detection of breast cancer beyond the current screening age and to women who are not currently screened. programs’.
The trial is in its 40th year of European approval, but UK European US validation studies are still being completed. The same technology, developed by the Indian firm Datar, has been validated to accurately detect glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.
Dr Crook said the test could be used every year to detect multiple cancers from a single blood sample, adding: “If you could do a one-tube blood test that could reliably pick up all the common solid tumours, it would be fantastic. . Your doctor can do it.’
Simmon Vincent, from the charity Breast Racer Now, said: “Early detection can stop people dying. This technique may be particularly useful for detecting breast cancer beyond the detection limits of mammography.’