A straightforward blood test that guarantees to be higher at spotting early-stage breast cancer than a mammogram has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’ for girls’s health.
The Trucheck test, which highlights cancer cells circulating within the blood, accurately identifies 92 per cent of breast cancers – around five percentage points higher than mammography.
But scientists say the actual breakthrough is its enhanced ability to identify early-stage breast cancers which are so small they’re difficult to select up on scans, particularly amongst younger ladies.
Breast cancer surgeon Professor Kefah Mokbel, who was involved within the research, predicted the blood test would result in a ‘paradigm shift’ in screening for breast cancer.
‘Potentially, this test is a game-changer. It could transform breast cancer screening,’ he said.
A straightforward blood test that guarantees to be higher at spotting early-stage breast cancer than a mammogram has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’ for girls’s health
Medical oncologist Dr Tim Crook, of The London Clinic private hospital, who’s offering it to patients, said the test could even replace mammograms, adding: ‘We have now an enormous problem with late diagnosis of cancer on this country and it’s been difficult to think about ways to ameliorate that.’
Within the test, a nurse withdraws 5ml of blood, which is processed to discover the presence of ‘circulating tumour cells’ (CTCs). These cells are almost all the time produced by cancerous tumours and are a highly accurate sign of cancer.
In a case-controlled study involving blood samples from 9,632 healthy women and one other 548 with breast cancer, Trucheck was capable of accurately spot cancer where it existed 92 per cent of the time.
The test perfectly spotted late-stage cancer – where tumours have spread beyond the breast – by identifying 100 per cent of samples from women with Stage 3 or Stage 4 of the disease.
It was not as accurate at spotting earlier-stage cancers, which produce fewer CTCs, but the outcomes were still impressive – identifying 96 per cent of ladies with Stage 2 disease, where tumours are largely confined to the breast.
For Stage 1, where the cancer is small and only within the breast, accuracy was 89 per cent. Even for the ‘ductal carcinoma in situ’, also referred to as Stage 0, where there are pre-cancerous lesions that might turn into the disease, it identified 70 per cent of cases.
But scientists say the actual breakthrough is its enhanced ability to identify early-stage breast cancers which are so small they’re difficult to select up on scans, particularly amongst younger ladies
There have been no false positives – through which a test indicates cancer exists but none is found – although one other study found a handful.
In contrast, around one in ten positive mammograms is a false alarm, leading to unnecessary treatment. Dr Crook said the blood test had other benefits over mammography, corresponding to the dearth of radiation, which raises cancer risk, and the ‘absence of the necessity for infrastructure’ corresponding to clinics.
Women in England are invited for his or her first mammogram at 50, after which every three years until 71. Last 12 months just 62 per cent of eligible women had the X-ray, partially as a consequence of the pandemic affecting services and attendance – meaning that while 1.2 million had a mammogram, leading to almost 11,000 breast cancer diagnoses, 750,000 didn’t. Later diagnosis results in poorer probabilities of survival.
Dr Crook said that if more women were diagnosed when their breast cancers were less developed, it might dramatically improve overall outcomes.
Professor Kefah Mokbel predicted the blood test would result in a ‘paradigm shift’ in screening for breast cancer
When spotted at Stage 1 and a pair of, cure rates exceed 90 per cent ‘without high-tech treatment’.
The test could help women of their 40s, who aren’t normally offered NHS mammograms because they’re relatively poor at spotting tumours within the denser breast tissue found amongst younger ladies.
Greater than 10,000 women under 50 – most of their 40s – are diagnosed with breast cancer within the UK every 12 months – a fifth of all cases. Often their cancers are only spotted late on once they have spread.
Prof Mokbel, of the London Breast Institute at Princess Grace Hospital, said the blood test results, published within the journal Cancers, ‘represent a pivotal step towards extending early breast cancer detection beyond the present screening age and to women not participating in the present screening programmes’.
The test has European approval to be used in women over 40 but remains to be undergoing validation studies within the UK and the US. The identical technology, developed by the Indian firm Datar, has been validated to accurately spot glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.
Dr Crook said the test could eventually be used to screen annually for multiple cancers from a single sample of blood, adding: ‘Should you can have a one-tube blood test that may reliably pick up all of the common solid tumours, that will be incredible. Your GP could do it.’
Simon Vincent, of the charity Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘Early detection can stop people dying. This method might be especially helpful for diagnosing breast cancer where the boundaries of mammography detection are pushed.’