Blood tests can help detect breast cancer early, claims study

New Delhi: Blood tests may be a new medium for early detection of breast cancer, according to researchers at AIIMS Delhi.

For the last three years, the biochemistry department at the institute has been conducting research that has shown that a pattern of blood chemistry change in early and late cancer patients can help identify the presence of cancerous tumours in the body. The experts collected blood samples from patients who have not started their treatment.

The serum, plasma, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), and immune cells were further isolated and their patterns in different stages of breast cancer were analysed. The researchers found out that tumour cells are known to secrete certain chemicals into the bloodstream, which stimulate differentiation and self-proliferation (division of a cell into two identical daughter cells, resulting in the production of cells identical to the parent) of various cells in the tumour microenvironment. The tumour microenvironment is the area around a tumour, including the surrounding blood vessels, immune cells, fibroblasts, signalling molecules and the extracellular matrix.

“These cancer-associated che micals are produced by different cells present in the tumour microenvironment at a particular stage of the disease progression, which may be unique. The results suggested an increase in specific parameters during the early stage of disease progression, which may correlate with the inflammatory tumour cells secreting them,” said Dr Pramod K. Gautam, associate professor, biochemistry, AIIMS.

The experts noted that knowing the trend of specific cytokines in different stages of the disease could provide new insights into early-stage detection.

“Compared to the cancer scree ning which takes around 7-10 days, the blood test reports can be available in two days. Many researchers have now realised the importance of the non-invasive detection of cancer in its earliest stages. This technique can be a game-changer for early cancer detection and analyse the stage,” Dr Gautam noted.

In India, breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women after cervical cancer and mammography is the most common screening test for it. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to screen women who have a high risk of bre ast cancer. Breast exams, thermography, and tissue sampling are some other screening tests.

According to Indian guidelines, for women, who have received radiation therapy to the chest, a mammogram should be done annually after 25 years of age. It is also recommended for women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer and annual mammo gram should start by the age of 35.