Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    DNA Test Shows Promise for Breast Cancer Care

    Blood sample helps doctors assess treatment response, researchers say

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Amy Norton

    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, March 13 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental blood test could help show whether women with advanced breast cancer are responding to treatment, a preliminary study suggests.

    The test detects abnormal DNA from tumor cells circulating in the blood. And the new findings, reported in the March 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, hint that it could outperform existing blood tests at gauging some women's response to treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

    That's an advanced form of breast cancer, where tumors have spread to other parts of the body -- most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain. There is no cure, but chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or other treatments can slow disease progression and ease symptoms.

    The sooner doctors can tell whether the treatment is working, the better. That helps women avoid the side effects of an ineffective therapy, and may enable them to switch to a better one.

    Right now, doctors monitor metastatic breast cancer with the help of imaging tests, such as CT scans. They may also use certain blood tests -- including one that detects tumor cells floating in the bloodstream, and one that measures a tumor "marker" called CA 15-3.

    But imaging does not tell the whole story, and it can expose women to significant doses of radiation. The blood tests also have limitations and are not routinely used.

    "Practically speaking, there's a huge need for novel methods" of monitoring women, said Dr. Yuan Yuan, an assistant professor of medical oncology at City of Hope cancer center in Duarte, Calif.

    For the new study, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England took blood samples from 30 women being treated for metastatic breast cancer and having standard imaging tests. They found that the tumor DNA test performed better than either the CA 15-3 or the tumor cell test when it came to estimating the women's treatment response.

    Of 20 women the researchers were able to follow for more than 100 days, 19 showed cancer progression on their CT scans. And 17 of them had shown rising tumor DNA levels. In contrast, only seven had a rising number of tumor cells, while nine had an increase in CA 15-3 levels.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
     
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
     
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    VIDEO
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Article
     
    Woman getting mammogram
    Article
    Screening Tests for Women
    Article
     
    serious woman
    Article
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    QUIZ
     
    what is your cancer risk
    Article
    breast cancer survivors
    Article