Scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute have moved a step closer to developing a blood test that could help detect the spread of breast cancer to the brain at an early stage.
In a new study published in Nature Communications, the researchers analysed blood samples from 10 patients living with incurable secondary breast cancer, identifying a distinct group of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) associated with brain metastasis.
Finding that CTCs in patients who have secondary tumours in the brain are different to CTCs from those who don’t have secondary tumours in the brain, the study raises the possibility that this difference between ‘brain CTCs’ and ‘non-brain CTCs’ could be analysed in blood tests to either try to detect the spread of the disease to the brain earlier or to monitor progression and the effectiveness of treatments.
Dr Richard Berks, Senior Research Communications Officer, at Breast Cancer Now said:
“These promising findings could help develop new ways to predict the spread of breast cancer earlier than is currently possible, potentially enabling earlier treatment which could control the disease more effectively. However, more work is now needed before these early results can benefit patients.
“It is absolutely crucial we find ways to stop the spread of breast cancer throughout the body, and particularly to the brain, where secondary tumours can have debilitating side-effects, as well as being incurable.
“This study uncovers new insight into how cells that can act as the ‘seed’ for secondary tumours in the brain are distinct from those that develop into secondary tumours elsewhere. We now look forward to further research to see whether this discovery could be translated into useful test in the clinic.”