A New Blood Test Could Help Detect Breast Cancer Five Years Before Symptoms

How antigens could show a lot more than we anticipated.

early breast cancer detection

New development in research at Nottingham University’s School of Medicine is showing strong evidence that in the future, breast cancer might be detectable as early as five years before clinical signs appear. This is because of a blood test that could identify the body’s immune responses to tumor cells. According to The National Cancer Instituteannual mammograms currently “give doctors the best chance at detecting breast cancer in its early stages when it can be treated and maybe cured”. However, according to the Guardian, other cancer experts have warned these claims should be treated with caution.

new breast cancer detection research
Image: Drew Hays

How It Would Work

The study at Nottingham University’s School of Medicine will focus on the chemicals known as antigens. Antigens are cancer cells and trigger an immune response inside humans. In particular, they cause our bodies to make auto-antibodies that target and try to block those invading antigens.
According to Well+Good, “in the pilot study, researchers took blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients when they were diagnosed with breast cancer before matching them with blood samples taken from 90 patients without breast cancer. Then, they tested the blood samples for the presence of autoantibodies and 40 TAAs associated with breast cancer.”
These researchers specifically wanted to know if they could detect the presence of specific autoantibodies in patients. According to the Guardian, “they would see if they had been triggered by antigens from tumor cells. The researchers took blood samples from 90 patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer. They compared them with samples taken from a control group of 90 patients without breast cancer. The researchers correctly identified breast cancer in 37% of blood samples taken from affected patients. Crucially, they were also able to show that there was no cancer in 79% of samples from the control group.”

The Good And Bad News

These results are definitely breakthrough research by the group. This can truly become a good method of detecting cancer early on once it will be tested more in the future. According to researcher Daniyah Alfattani, “We have found that these tumor-associated antigens are good indicators of cancer. However, we need to develop and further validate this test.” According to Alfattani, the team at the university is working on similar tests for pancreatic, colorectal and liver cancers.

new breast cancer prevention research
Image: Louis Reed

While you’re here, check out the scary risk factors associated with getting a boob job

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