Researchers are refining a blood test that can identify breast cancer, differentiating between women with the disease and those without. The tests were on 121 women with suspicious mammograms, plus 6 women in a control group. Of these, 67 had cancerous tumors and 54 were non-malignant. The blood tests were effective in spotting the cancerous tumors, with a 79.5% accuracy, a sensitivity of 80.6% and a specificity of 78.3%.
The results were published in the journal Breast Cancer Research (January 2010). The researchers wrote:
[O]ur results indicate that gene expression in whole blood serves as a possible diagnostic tool for early detection of breast cancer. We have identified a gene signature that separates breast cancer patients from healthy women with good accuracy.
They say this is a supplement to mammography, not a replacement, although I have to ask why this can’t ultimately replace those yearly doses of radiation.
This tool could constitute a fast and painless supplement to existing diagnostic technology, and offer a breast cancer test in areas where mammography screening is insufficient.