A new blood test uses DNA methylation to detect and predict the spread of breast cancer
Blood Test Could Predict Breast Cancer Years Earlier
Tracking changes in the ATM gene could offer clues to a woman's breast cancer risk years before tumors are diagnosed.
By Allison Takeda
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WEDNESDAY, May 2, 2012 — A new genetic test could make early detection of breast cancer possible before tumors grow.
Researchers from Imperial College London have found a link between breast cancer risk and molecular modification of a gene that they say could be used to spot signs of cancer years before it is diagnosed — in some cases, more than a decade before.
Scientists analyzed blood samples from more than 1,300 women, 640 of whom were later diagnosed with breast cancer. The team looked for evidence of methylation, an epigenetic process that alters individual genes and is influenced by environmental factors such as alcohol and pollution.
The team found that women with the highest levels of methylation in a gene called ATM, which appears on white blood cells, had double the risk of developing cancer compared to women with the lowest levels. The link was especially pronounced in those under 60.
Much more research is needed to confirm these findings, but if future studies are successful, the scientists believe methylation could help identify which women are most vulnerable to breast cancer.
"We know that genetic variation contributes to a person's risk of disease,” said author James Flanagan, Ph.D., for the study published in the journal Cancer Research. “With this new study we can now also say that epigenetic variation, or differences in how genes are modified, also has a role.
“We hope that this research is just the beginning of our understanding about the epigenetic component of breast cancer risk, and in the coming years we hope to find many more examples of genes that contribute to a person’s risk.”
Doing so, “we can look at ways of preventing the disease and detecting it earlier to give people the best possible chance of survival,” added Baroness Delyth Morgan of the Breast Cancer Campaign, which funded the work.
Video: New Blood Test For Breast Cancer Recurrence!
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