Diagnosing Breast Cancer
Researchers at the Departament of Biomedical Engineering at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine have discovered a new method of detecting breast cancer using a simple blood sample. The discovery that can totally change the future diagnostic methods was published in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers found in women. Current detection methods rely mainly on imaging, that is mammography or ultrasonography. Diagnosis should be confirmed by biopsy with histology of the sample. Mammography is also the screening method, as recommended to every women of 40-45 years. However, many cancers go undetected and are found in a late stage when treatment options are limited. In principle, if cancer is discovered sooner chances of cure are higher.
Useful in detecting and monitoring breast cancer are the laboratory findings. There are specific proteins in the blood that detect the presence of breast cancer, such carcinoembryonic antigen, CEA. However, this antigen is not very specific for breast cancer because it can occur in other situations. Moreover, CEA can be found even in healthy people, its present in the blood being dependent on genetic structure and lifestyle of each person. Therefore, scientists have tried to discover what is the limit and how to distinguish between people with cancer and those without cancer. Dr. David Juncker, the team’s principal investigator, said that researchers are focusing on building a profile of cancer based on the presence of certain markers present in cancer. “However, no reliable set of biomarkers has been found, and no such test is available today. Our goal is to find a way around this,” said Dr. David Juncker.
Researchers were able to develop a technology that detects the presence of these biomarkers in the blood without analysis to give false positive results. The team have developed a novel microfluidics-based microarray technology, which is more specific for detecting cancer. Scientists analyzed 32 proteins present in the blood of healthy individuals and that of individuals with cancer (breast cancer estrogen receptor). Based on blood tests, researchers were able to make a profile of the patient with cancer. Dr. Juncker said that in addition to these investigations, there are required others to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. However, this new technology is promising and may be the way to new advances in cancer diagnosis. Also, Dr. Juncker also said the researchers intend to put up a hand-held version of the test in order to be widely available to patients.