Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine have received a $2.4m grant to validate a blood test intended for early breast cancer detection.

The grant from the US Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program will support the researchers’ efforts to validate the blood test, Syantra DX Breast Cancer.

Developed by Syantra, the diagnostic test employs an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm and has the potential to identify cancer at the earliest stages detectable by mammogram or even before symptoms appear.

Weill Cornell Medicine’s breast medical oncology director Dr Massimo Cristofanilli is the study’s principal investigator.

Cristofanilli said: “This new liquid biopsy, or blood test, has the potential to detect breast cancer at a very early stage. Early diagnosis means treatment can start sooner when it is most effective, saving lives.”

Approximately 240,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, with nearly 42,000 fatalities each year, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Early detection is crucial as it can reduce the need for invasive treatments, such as double mastectomy and chemotherapy, which are associated with severe side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.

Cristofanilli added: “Because of modern treatment methods, 86% of women diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer survive past five years. However, this number drops to just 28% in women diagnosed at stage 4.”

The grant will enable Cristofanilli to assess the test’s performance in women aged 30 to 75 years with an elevated risk of developing breast cancer. This includes individuals with dense breast tissue, abnormal mammograms, genetic predisposition, or suspicious symptoms.

The Syantra DX Breast Cancer test aims to improve specificity and sensitivity in detecting breast cancer.

Participants are planned to be recruited from NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and the University of Calgary.

They will undergo liquid biopsy alongside standard screening procedures.