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13.12.19

New blood test found to match advanced breast cancer patients to specific treatments

A new way of identifying rare mutations in advanced cancer, which may enable patients to access effective treatments more quickly in the future, has been developed by Cancer Research UK scientists.

As part of the plasmaMATCH clinical trial, funded by Stand Up to Cancer, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research and Channel 4, it has been discovered a blood test can detect mutations in the DNA from the tumours, which had been spread into the bloodstream.

They found particular weaknesses in the breast cancer DNA that could be targeted with drugs, suggesting that this new blood test could be a more efficient way of guiding treatment than standard tissue biopsies, which can take longer and is more painful. Their findings and results were presented at the 2019 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium today (Thursday 12th Dec.)

The team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, analysed the blood from around 1,000 women with breast cancer that had returned post treatment, or had spread to another part of the body.

The scientific team wanted to look into if taking a liquid biopsy, where traces of tumour DNA circulating in the blood can be detected, was a quicker and easier alternative to traditional tumour testing.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with around 55, 200 new cases every year, and women who are diagnosed later, or whose cancer has come back after treatment have limited treatment options. For example, when the disease is diagnosed at the latest stage, only 1 in 4 people will survive their cancer for five years or more.

Professor Nicholas Turner, Professor of Molecular Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, said: “The choice of targeted treatment we give to patients is usually based on the mutations found in the original breast tumour. But their cancer can have different mutations after it has moved to other parts of the body.

“We have now confirmed that blood tests can quickly give us a bigger picture of the mutations are present within multiple tumours throughout the body, getting the results back to patients accurately and faster than we could before. This is a huge step in terms of making decisions in the clinic, particularly for those women with advanced breast cancer who could quickly be put on new targeted treatments matched to their cancer if it evolves to become drug resistant.”

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