The work, which is part-funded by Breast Cancer Now, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine today.

Thursday 12 November 2015      Latest research Our research
Scientists develop blood test that could spot when breast cancers become resistant to standard hormone treatment

Scientists part-funded by Breast Cancer Now at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation have developed a highly sensitive blood test that can spot when breast cancers become resistant to standard hormone treatment, and have demonstrated that this test could guide further treatment.

The test gives an early warning of resistance to aromatase inhibitors, which are used to treat women with oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, the most common kind.

The team, led by Dr Nicholas Turner, found that the test could detect mutations to the oestrogen receptor gene ESR1 – which conveys resistance to hormone treatment – specifically in women treated with aromatase inhibitors.

Detecting mutations in this gene from cancer DNA in the bloodstream could allow doctors to rapidly identify which patients are no longer benefiting from treatment and switch them to an alternative drug.

The work is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine today (Wednesday 12 November), and was funded by several organisations including the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), Breast Cancer Now, The Cridlan Ross Smith Charitable Trust and Cancer Research UK.

Dr Richard Berks, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“Liquid biopsies are showing great potential in enabling doctors to monitor how breast tumours – and particularly secondary breast tumours – are responding to treatments.

“By sampling the blood instead of the tumour, this highly-sensitive test is far less invasive and could help clinicians give the most appropriate treatments to patients whose breast cancer has spread, ensuring they can live as long as possible with the best-possible quality of life.

“Breast Cancer Now is continuing to fund research into liquid biopsies and we look forward to further developments that will help bring these promising advances closer to those that need them.”

Part-funded by Breast Cancer Now, this research was generously supported by The Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Foundation and the work was conducted in the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green laboratory within Breast Cancer Now's research centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

More information

The full paper can be read on the Science Translational Medicine website.