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Breast Cancer Can Now Be Detected In A Single Droplet Of Blood

April 12, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 132

Nearly one out of every eight women will eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer during the course of her lifetime. Everyone knows that early detection is the key to long-term survival. Early detection continues to be a challenge because of the issues surrounding mammography: its costliness and its lack of portability as a diagnostic tool. Many times breast cancer can only be detected with mammography once it has reached an advanced stage. This may soon change because of a new array developed by biomedical engineers at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. They published their research findings recently in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics' April issue.

Scientists have struggled to develop a blood test for cancer that was based on the presence of something called the Carcinoembyronic Antigen or CEA which is a biomarker for cancer which was discovered more than 40 years ago by Dr. Phil Gold, of McGill University. The problem, however, is that this biomarker is also detectable in healthy people and the amount detected can vary from individual to individual based on different genetic backgrounds and the person's lifestyle. Because of this, scientists have not been able to determine the exact cut-off ratio between people who are healthy and people who have cancer.

The McGill team began to attempt to overcome this issue by measuring the concentration of the various proteins found in the blood and identifying the signature molecules which, when looked at together, constituted a specific "cancer fingerprint". To date, they have still not been able to isolate this cancer fingerprint.

Next, the team began to analyze the various technologies that are able to measure the multiple proteins found in the blood and developed a model that described their vulnerabilities and specific limitations. They discovered the reasons behind why up until then the number of proteins which can be measured simultaneously had been limited and why the accuracy of these type of tests had been so difficult to maintain. Once they had a better understanding of this process, they were able to begin developing their micro array which circumvented those restrictions. Their new technology makes it possible to measure as many protein biomarkers as the physician wishes to test for while minimizing the number of false positive results.

The research team in conjunction with teams from oncology and bioinformatics specialties were able to measure the profile of 32 different proteins in the blood taken from 11 healthy controls and 17 women who had a particular estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. They discovered that a subset of six of the 32 proteins could be used to determine a fingerprint for this cancer and could be used to classify each of the various patients and/or healthy controls as either having or not having breast cancer.

The researchers hope that this work will eventually lead to the development of an easy diagnostic test which can be carried out in any physician's office through the taking of a single droplet of blood. They hope that this technology will be able to reduce the dependency on mammography and thus reduce women's exposure to harmful x-rays while also minimizing cost. The researchers are currently attempting to develop a hand-held device which will be able to carry out this test.

If you're concerned about being diagnosed with breast cancer, I would like to share with you an online forum where you can discuss your fears with other women.

Source: EzineArticles
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