How Can We Use a Breast Cancer Detection Blood Test?
Though breast imaging is the current gold standard for breast cancer detection, there is a strong need for a complementary diagnostic tool to aid in early detection. If we were to combine a breast cancer detection blood test with the current standard imaging, we would allow for increased accuracy and earlier detection of breast cancer. Earlier detection is directly correlated to increased survival. This would add certainty in the detection paradigm for women with difficult-to-interpret imaging results. By incorporating multiple classes of protein biomarkers to identify breast cancer based on biochemical changes in a woman's body, we can provide additional information to that provided by.
A breast cancer detection blood test can Improve Early Detection of Cancer
A breast cancer detection 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 genetic predisposition. Genetic mutations, such as the well-known BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer. BRCA mutations account for roughly 5 percent of all breast cancers, but have significant impact on a woman's lifetime risk for developing the disease.
A breast cancer detection blood test, not reliant on anatomy alone, could complement imaging in the diagnostic workup of abnormal or difficult-to-interpret imaging results and therefore help streamline patient care.
For women with abnormal findings and dense breasts, this could provide additional clarity as there is an increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as an increased risk for a missed or delayed diagnosis. While the use of digital mammography is considered standard, for the 50 percent of women with dense breast tissue, glandular tissue may obscure malignancy. This is due to the fact that distinguishing between healthy and dense breast tissue and cancer is difficult as both appear white on imaging, this is often described as trying to spot a polar bear in a snowstorm. 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.
A breast cancer detection blood test which utilizes biomarkers available in the bloodstream, can provide additional insights into the biochemical changes that occur during breast cancer. A blood-based approach would also have the power to give BI-RADS 3 patients clarity on their current cancer status. When a patient falls into the “gray zone” of a BI-RADS 3 versus BI-RADS 4A, an additional diagnostic tool, not reliant on imaging results alone could aid in decision making. Though the classification only varies by one percent, the treatment plans vary greatly. BI-RADS 3 patients are given a “watch and wait approach” while, BI-RADS 4 patients are biopsied.
By adding a breast cancer detection blood test to the current standard-of-care imaging methods, we are able to provide information on a woman’s physiology, not provided by the anatomical view available from imaging alone. Innovative technologies in the form of liquid biopsies will help imaging detect breast cancer more efficiently and more accurately in more women, while also helping to rule-out breast cancer when it is not present.