A BLOOD TEST TO
BEAT BREAST CANCER
We hope to use this blood test to understand how well breast cancer treatments are working, predict when breast cancer may return, and help patients access treatments sooner.Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson, NBCF-funded researcher
After over 4 years of targeted research and development, NBCF-funded researcher Associate Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson has reached an exciting turning point.
Her liquid biopsy research, designed to follow the progress of those diagnosed with breast cancer, is now being implemented in the clinic. And the results so far are promising.
“The results have shown that it is possible to obtain key information on particular breast cancer genes from a simple blood test. This is helping guide personalised treatment decisions and identify options for patients with metastatic disease,” explains Sarah-Jane.
The cutting-edge blood test, which can be used for all ages, provides an alternative for invasive and costly tissue biopsies.
Currently, these surgical or fine-needle biopsies are the only way to determine if a suspicious area is cancerous. They are effective in diagnosing primary cancer, but are often ineffective at monitoring for the early signs of cancer return over time.
Now, Associate Professor Dawson’s new blood tests could change the game for good.
Known as ‘liquid biopsies’, the blood tests use highly-sensitive molecular genetic techniques to detect and analyse circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) which has escaped from cancer cells and is floating in the bloodstream.
It’s a breakthrough that has the potential to transform the way that breast cancer is detected, diagnosed and monitored.
It holds the ability to identify which patients are most at risk of their cancer returning, detect relapse months before it is clinically evident and find gene targets to tailor breast cancer treatment decisions.
“It has been a great achievement to see this research be implemented in the clinical arena to benefit patients.” said Associate Professor Dawson.
“WE EXPECT THAT THESE BLOOD TESTS WILL BE USED MORE WIDELY ACROSS THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS.”
“Larger clinical trials are required to analyse the accuracy of these tests before they can be incorporated into routine healthcare. These trials are currently being designed and some are already underway.”
It’s progress that wouldn’t be possible without the donations of NBCF supporters – which led to seed NBCF funding for Sarah-Jane’s work in 2014.
“Funding from NBCF has had an enormous impact on my career. It has been instrumental in allowing me to set up my own laboratory to explore the applications of liquid biopsy and has helped me move these tests closer to the clinic,” Sarah-Jane explains.
“I believe research is the most powerful way to make a difference. Without your support many important discoveries would not be made.”