How Can A Breast Cancer Biomarker Blood Test Help Improve Detection?
Despite advances in breast imaging technologies, the capacity to precisely detect breast cancer remains challenging. This leads to situations where patients might be under or over treated, which can result in extra financial implications and overall uncertainty to patients, healthcare providers and the healthcare system as a whole. As a result, we need a breast cancer biomarker blood test to complement imaging when patients fall into the "gray zone" and results are difficult-to-interpret.
What are protein biomarkers?
Advancements in science and cancer research have allowed us to detect cancer at the cellular level by recognizing biomarkers in the blood. A protein biomarker is defined by the National Cancer Institute, as a "biological molecule found in the blood, other bodily fluids or tissue that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, a condition or disease." Proteomic technologies can recognize fluctuations in protein signatures in the blood exclusive to breast cancer.
How can biomarkers assist in breast cancer detection?
Cancer biomarkers are associated with multiple stages during disease progression and therefore, may play a significant role in clinical decision making. Diagnostic tests can analyze biomarkers to provide information about early tumor development. This presents great opportunity for the improvement of breast cancer detection by examining panel of biomarkers and biomarker signatures, diagnostic tests may be able to provide information about early tumor development to detect breast cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage. Detection of breast cancer at an early stage has the potential to increase five-year survival rates up to 99 percent.
To truly identify a real-time presence or absence of cancer at a biological level, we need to understand the signal each biomarker sends and how a combinatorial biomarker panel can assist in interpreting coherent messages from that combination of biomarkers. Biomarkers are similar to letters in the alphabet: by assessing all the letters present, we can then unscramble the message, which in the case would provide a clear signal as to the presence or absence of breast cancer.
How does this impact women with unclear imaging results?
A breast cancer biomarker blood test, which relies on detection based on protein biomarkers in the blood, has the power to detect breast cancer in real-time – independent of a woman’s genetic predisposition or breast density.
A liquid biopsy test, not reliant on anatomy alone, could accompany breast imaging in the diagnostic workup of abnormal or difficult-to-interpret imaging results to help streamline patient care. The ability of a breast cancer biomarker blood test, particularly for patients who receive difficult-to-interpret imaging results, to provide detection irrespective of a woman’s breast density is critical as a complementary form of detection. This is due to the fact that distinguishing between healthy and dense breast tissue and cancer can make imaging interpretations more difficult as both appear white on imaging. Incorporating a liquid biopsy, into the diagnostic workup, which relies on protein biomarkers to indicate biochemical changes rather than an anatomical view provided by imaging alone, can aid in early detection of breast cancer.