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A Blood Test
to Beat
Breast Cancer


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.

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.


It’s been ten years since Karen had a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy to rid her body of breast cancer. But even today, the possibility of a potential relapse plays on her mind.

The widespread use of Sarah-Jane’s blood test could provide a simple, non-invasive method for women like Karen to regularly monitor their body for the return of breast cancer. It could help all breast cancer patients understand where they are on their journey – lifting the shadow of fear for good.

A/Prof Sarah-Jane Dawson and her husband Professor Mark Dawson
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.

You never know if you’re truly cancer free. A blood test like this would be wonderful, it would give us some power back. It would put that spectre of fatal relapse to bed. It would mean that if it were to come back, we would know soon enough to do something about it.
Karen, diagnosed 2008