Breast Cancer Test 'Predicts Survival Rate' And 'Aids Targeted Treatment'

Posted: 22/03/2012 13:08 Updated: 22/03/2012 13:08   PA

Breast Cancer Test

Counting breast cancer cells in the blood may help predict a woman's survival chances and aid targeted treatment, a study has shown.

Patients with at least five circulating tumour cells (CTCs) detected straight after surgery had a four-fold increased risk of cancer recurrence, scientists found.

They were also three times more likely to die from their disease than women without CTCs.

But doctors believe it is not all bad news for women with circulating tumour cells. Identifying the cancer cells could make it possible to spot early disease changes and provide the most effective targeted treatment.

Circulating tumour cells are rare and difficult to detect. In cancer patients, one millilitre of blood contains an estimated 7.5 tumour cells compared with a few million white blood cells and a billion red blood cells.

The German scientists conducting the new study used advanced automated technology to find CTCs in blood samples. The blood test is much less invasive than the alternative way of detecting CTCs in bone marrow.

Researchers tested the blood of more than 2,000 patients all of whom had undergone surgery before starting chemotherapy treatment.

CTCs were detected in 21.5% of the blood samples, a much lower rate than that usually seen in advanced and spreading breast cancer.

Study leader Dr Bernadette Jager, from Ludwig Maximilian University Hospital in Munich, said: "Although there is currently no direct advantage to the patient of knowing her CTC status, this is already a step forward, and in future we believe that the presence of CTCs could be used as a marker for monitoring the efficacy of treatment.

"If this proves to be the case, it will also help us determine the best chemotherapy regime for each patient."

Dr Jager presented the findings at the European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC) in Vienna.

CTC detection could be combined with routine blood tests and carried out frequently, she said.

The trial patients are having their CTC counts re-assessed after chemotherapy and then at intervals of two and five years.

The German team has also started a new study aimed at seeing if CTC detection can aid treatment.

Breast tumours that over-produce the protein Her-2 can be especially aggressive. But sometime a cancer can change its Her-2 status from negative to positive without this being immediately apparent.

The new study will look for Her-2 positive circulating tumour cells in women whose original Her-2 status was negative.

"When we find CTCs with a different Her-2 status from that of the primary tumour or the metastasis (cancer spread), we will evaluate the advantage of changing the therapy regimen," said Dr Jager.

"Therefore we are now investigating the benefit of a Her-2 targeted therapy in patients with Her-2 positive CTCs but a Her-2 negative primary tumour or metastasis; if the therapy is successful we can be sure that we are attacking the cancer in the right way and in the right place.

"If CTCs can be used as a direct treatment target, this will be a promising development and a further step on the road to enabling us to tailor treatment appropriately for individual patients."

Professor Michael Gnant from the Medical University of Vienna and Chair of the EBCC organising committee said: "Accurately identifying circulating tumour cells is an important step forward in our two decade-long quest to decipher these cells and the impact on treatment response and prognosis of early breast cancer patients."

For other incredible medical breakthroughs, take a look at HuffPost Lifestyle's round-up of life-changing scientific studies.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Skin Cancer Drug Doubles Survival Rate

    A twice-daily skin cancer drug almost doubles the survival times of advanced cancer patients, American scientists have discovered. Researchers from the Jonsson Cancer Center at the <a href="http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/" target="_hplink">University of California</a>, found that advanced melanoma cancer sufferers lived on average of 16 months after receiving the vemurafenib drug. Read the full story here. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/23/skin-cancer-drug-zelboraf-doubles-survival-times_n_1295896.html?ref=uk-lifestyle" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>

  • Breakthrough Test Could Predict Heart Attacks And Strokes

    Scientists have discovered five new genes that cause heart attacks and strokes and hope these findings will enable them to pinpoint when the attacks will strike. The researchers, from <a href="http://www.qmul.ac.uk/" target="_hplink">Queen Mary University</a> of London, identified five generic variants that trigger heart attacks and strokes after investigating blood pressure measurements of 25,000 participants. The aim of the study was to look into the role that genes play in hypertension and high blood pressure. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/18/test-predicts-heart-attack-and-stroke_n_1101174.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Skin Cancer Pill Brings Fresh Hope To Alzheimer's Sufferers

    American scientists have discovered a potential new drug that could help fight against Alzheimer's disease. Neuroscientists from the <a href="http://casemed.case.edu/" target="_hplink">Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine</a> discovered that a skin cancer drug called bexarotene appears to reverse cognitive and memory deficits associated with Alzheimer's when tested on lab mice. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/09/bexarotene-cancer-drug-prevents-alzheimers_n_1265726.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Personalised Skin Cancer Drugs Brings Fresh Hope

    A "personalised" pill for advanced skin cancer that can extend life has been approved for use in the UK. The drug, vemurafenib, only works for patients with a specific variant of the BRAF gene. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/14/personalised-skin-cancer-drug-created_n_1344010.html " target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Genetic Breakthrough Raises Hope For Breast Cancer Sufferers

    The genetic code of the most common form of hereditary breast cancer has been mapped for the first time, offering hope for diagnosis and treatment of the disease in the future. Researchers say they have "fully sequenced" the DNA of two breast cancers caused by a faulty BRCA1 gene, which is responsible for aggressive and highly drug-resistant tumours. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/24/genetic-breakthrough-breast-cancer-hope_n_1299330.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Peanut Allergies - Have Scientists Finally Found A Cure?

    Scientists from the <a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/" target="_hplink">Northwestern University</a> in Chicago have come one step closer to developing a potential cure for peanut allergies, by creating an immune system tolerant to peanuts. The researchers found that they can switch off potentially deadly peanut allergy attacks by tricking the immune system into tolerating nut proteins, and not seeing them as a threat to the body. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/11/peanut-allergies-has-a-cure-been-found_n_1004615.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Lung Cancer Detection Test Trial

    A breakthrough lung cancer detection test is set to be trialled on smokers for the first time in Scotland. If successful, cancers could be identified five years earlier than by current detection methods. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/23/breakthrough-lung-cancer-detection-test-trialled_n_1374925.html " target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Cure For Insomnia A Step Closer After Scientists Discover The Enzyme That Wakes Us Up

    Sleepless nights could soon be a thing of the past as scientists discover a key chemical trigger that suppresses sleep and wakes people up. Researchers from <a href="http://www.bu.edu/" target="_hplink">Boston University </a>found that when the body has too little of the calcium kinase enzyme, it causes the brain to nod off to sleep. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/23/insomnia-cure-a-step-closer-after-enzyme-discovery_n_1109969.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Boiling Breast Cancer Tumours Kills Them In Minutes, Discover Experts

    A new treatment for breast cancer has been discovered after scientists found that breast tumours can be killed in minutes - by boiling them. The latest treatment, known as Preferential Radio-Frequency Ablation, uses a targeted electrical current that heats, or 'boils' the tumour to 70 to 90c (160 to 190f). <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/22/boiling-breast-cancer-tumours-kills-them-in-minutes_n_1107632.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • New Scan Detects Breast Cancer In Seconds Using Anti-Landmine Technology

    British scientists have developed a revolutionary breast-screening system that uses anti-landmine technology to detect cancer in seconds. The radio-wave scanner is safer, cheaper and less painful than traditional mammogram X-rays, and unlike the current system, can be used on women of all ages. <a href="New Scan Detects Breast Cancer In Seconds Using Anti-Landmine Technology " target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Stem Cell Transplant Offers New Hope For Autism and Parkinson's

    Breakthrough research involving a brain transplant of stem cells could offer hope for the treatment of both autism and Parkinson's disease. The study, from <a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target="_hplink">Harvard University</a>, has already proven successful with mice. Scientists transferred healthy stem cells from mouse embryos into the brains of adult mice who were unable to use leptin, a hormone that tells the body when to stop eating. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/25/stem-cell-hope-autism-parkinsons_n_1112738.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Gastric Pacemaker To Fight Obesity By Convincing Brain That Stomach Is Full

    A stomach implant that can trick the brain into thinking the stomach is full is the latest hi-tech gadget that experts hope will help fight the flab and beat obesity. The <a href="http://www.abiliti.com/" target="_hplink">Abiliti</a>, or 'Gastric Pacemaker', is a credit card-sized implant, inserted using keyhole surgery, which detects when food has been eaten and sends signals to the brain to create the feeling of fullness. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/08/gastric-pacemaker-beat-obesity_n_1082081.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • 'Fertility Switch' Could Save Women From Pain Of Infertility Or Miscarriage

    Scientists from the <a href="http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/" target="_hplink">Imperial College</a> London have discovered a 'fertility switch' that could help treat infertility and miscarriage in the future. The study, published in the <a href="http://www.nature.com/nm/index.html" target="_hplink">Nature Medicine</a> journal, discovered an enzyme in the body that determines infertility and the chances of miscarriage, as it acts like a 'switch'. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/17/new-hope-for-women-struggling-to-conceive_n_1015554.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • New Once-Daily HIV Pill Available In UK

    Eviplera, a new once-daily pill for the treatment of HIV has been made available in 27 countries of the European Union following approval by the <a href="http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=/pages/home/Home_Page.jsp&jsenabled=true" target="_hplink">European Medicines Agency</a>. The new drug, from <a href="http://www.gilead.com/" target="_hplink">Gilead Sciences</a>, combines three antiretroviral treatments in a single tablet so HIV patients only need to take one tablet a day to treat their condition. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/world-aids-day-2011-new-once-daily-pill-available-in-uk_n_1122590.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Potent Alzheimer's Vaccine 'Could Prevent Disease From Developing'

    Scientists believe that a potent Alzheimer's vaccine jab could be the secret to preventing the disease developing from its early stages. Researchers from<a href="http://gumc.georgetown.edu/" target="_hplink"> Georgetown University Medical Center</a> in Washington found that an antibody for Alzheimer's disease is more likely to trigger inflammation in the brain the later it is given and that it could potentially be prevented, as long as the vaccine is taken during the very early stages of the disease. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/16/potent-alzheimers-vaccine-could-prevent-disease_n_1096670.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

FOLLOW UK LIFESTYLE

Filed by Kyrsty Jade Hazell  |