Switzerland-based bioinformatics solutions provider Genedata has created new algorithms to aid in the early detection of breast cancer and certain ovarian cancers.
Under the European Union (EU) funded EpiFemCare, Genedata scientists used the firm’s software platform called Genedata Profiler to process and analyse huge volumes of data obtained from patient blood samples for the detection of tumour DNA markers.
While tumour DNA markers aid in the identification of cancer cells even in initial stages, they become extremely diluted in serum samples and could not be detected easily.
The new algorithms are designed to address concerns with existing methods by detecting and quantifying even little amounts of tumour DNA with high sensitivity and specificity.
When used in the EpiFemCare project, the algorithms have led to the discovery of a new serum DNA methylation marker called EFC#93 that has the potential to diagnose breast cancer around one year before existing methods.
The researchers further found that DNA methylation patterns in a specific panel of markers could identify select ovarian cancers around two years prior to diagnosis.
They expect that these findings could pave way for the personalised treatment of breast or ovarian cancer patients.
Study coordinator professor Martin Widschwendter said: “For the first time, our study provides evidence that serum DNA methylation markers such as EFC#93 provide a highly specific indicator that could diagnose fatal breast cancers up to one year in advance of current diagnosis.
“This may enable individualised treatment, which could even begin in the absence of radiological evidence in the breast.”