A Blood Test To Detect Breast Cancer May Be On The Horizon
Each year about 40,000 women die of breast cancer. Mammography is the current standard used to screen for breast cancer. What if there could be other ways to detect cancer, increasing the chance of surviving this disease? Scientist are working diligently to address this question, and you may be asked to be a part of the development of such a blood test. When cancer is treated in the early stages, the survival rates are five to ten times higher than when the cancer is found later, making efforts to detect cancer early of paramount importance.
During a recent mammogram, I was asked if I would like to participate in the STRIVE study. Dr. Steve Cummings and his team are recruiting 120,000 women for this ground-breaking study. The purpose is to find breast cancer in early stages, which would improve treatment outcomes, and ultimately try to save lives by improving survival. The blood test is done as a complementary measure of screening using standard mammography.
When cancer develops in our body, it genetically changes the cells in the organ or tissues. It can change the rate of division of cells, often causing abnormal cells that grow to form a tumor or mass. Taking a piece of the DNA for study is called genetic sequencing, looking for clues of such changes within the cells that lead to cancerous tumors.
During the time of the mammogram, blood samples are obtained to look for genetic material (DNA and/or RNA) in the blood that represent cancer in early stages of the development. The women are then followed for five years through annual mammography. The hope is that the DNA or RNA that is “shed” by the tumor is detected by the blood test, leading to early diagnosis, while also studying the genome sequencing so that clues about the prognosis or progression of tumor is also revealed for better treatments. By looking at the building blocks of the tumor, they hope to also find other medical conditions that are related to the cancer itself.
Dr. Steve Cummings is the lead on this project, teaming up with the Mayo Clinic system and the Sutter Health system (Dignity Health) of Northern California. As a health consumer, I hope you would consider participating or encouraging a loved one to participate in this valuable study. Although it is not for personal use for diagnosis, it is the beginning of developing a tool (test) for early detection and will benefit many in the future.