Johns Hopkins cancer researchers and collaborators around the country have developed a blood test that they believe can tell when breast cancer has spread and can accurately monitor the cancer’s response to treatment.
Currently there are not good blood tests to see if there is a recurrence of breast cancer in patients without symptoms, said Saraswati Sukumar, the Barbara B. Rubenstein Professor of Oncology and co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
This test detects cancer DNA in the blood of patients with metastatic breast cancer. Findings about the test, called the cMethDNA assay, were published this month in the journal Cancer Research.
The current blood tests and scans, administered only when a patient complains of pain or other problems, aren’t accurate enough, and “the goal is to develop a test that could be administered routinely to alert the physician and patient as soon as possible of a return of the original cancer in a distant spot,” Sukumar said in a statement. “With the development of cMethDNA, we’ve taken a first big step toward achieving this goal.”
Sukumar and the other researchers identified 10 genes that are altered in breast cancers. The test finds a type of chemical tag in one or more of these genes, and when the tags are detected it indicates the cancer has returned or spread.
That makes it suitable for use in monitoring recurrence and progression.
It may also work well for other cancers including lung or colorectal, the researchers said. It doesn’t appear accurate for recurrent ovarian, kidney or stomach cancers. There is a patent pending on the test.