Blood Test for Breast Cancer Patients

Metastatic breast cancer treatment could be guided with new blood test

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Every breast cancer is as unique as the patient who has it. Understanding how the cancer progresses is key to making effective treatment decisions.

Science has learned that so-called "circulating tumor cells" (CTC) carry a great deal of information about the status and outlook of various cancers. A blood test that looks at how many of these cells are present may help doctors make better treatment decisions for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

"Ask your oncologist about metastatic breast cancer blood test."

Researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed data from cancer centers from around the world.

Minetta Liu, M.D., lead investigator of the new analysis and director of translational breast cancer research at Georgetown Lombardi, says that currently various radiological studys (CT scans, ultrasounds, etc.) are used to monitor disease progression in patients with metastatic breast cancer. She adds that these are expensive and invasive and can affect the patient's quality of life.

Her analysis shows blood tests that count the number of CTCs present may offer a number of advantages. The presence of five or more CTCs in the blood indicates that the disease is getting worse and that new therapies may be in order.

The goal of these changes would be to prolong the patient's life.

For this study, Liu's team analyzed data from peer-reviewed published studies. Scientists from around the world provided blinded data which ultimately produced a dataset on 841 patients.

This large sample size enabled Liu to confirm findings from other studies that indicate a CTC count of five or more is associated with disease progression. The predictive value of CTCs was not affected by treatment type.

Findings from this study were reported at the 2011 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

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Review Date: 
June 13, 2011
Last Updated:
June 13, 2011