UK researchers develop new liquid biopsy test to monitor breast cancer


Researchers at the University of Leicester and Imperial College London in the UK have developed a new liquid biopsy test to monitor breast cancer progression and identify patients who require a change in treatment.

Funded by Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Now, the test is designed to detect point mutations and copy number alterations that indicate disease progression.

The test can also measure genetic changes in circulating cancer DNA for identification of patients who would benefit from Herceptin treatment or can potentially develop resistance to anti-hormone therapy.

It monitors 13 different genes such as the ERBB2 gene (HER2) and the ESR1 (oestrogen receptor).

Led by University of Leicester Dr David Guttery and professor Jacqui Shaw, the research team evaluated the test in laboratory cell-line models. It also tested 42 secondary breast cancer patients and nine healthy women.

"While the test accurately detected all expected cancer DNA changes in the lab, it successfully identified the changes in 21 of the patients and detected no mutations in healthy subjects."

While the test accurately detected all expected cancer DNA changes in the lab, it successfully identified the changes in 21 of the patients and detected no mutations in healthy subjects.

Dr Guttery said: “We have developed a novel blood test that can simultaneously detect somatic mutations and copy number alterations that are integral in driving the growth of breast cancer.

“By analysing blood plasma to measure for cancer-specific changes to key breast cancer genes, including the HER2 and oestrogen receptor genes, we hope this test could help doctors and patients choose the best treatment at the best time.”

The study is considered as proof of concept and the test requires further validation of clinical usefulness before commercialisation.