In a small study, carried out by the University of Leicester and Imperial College London and funded by Cancer Research UK, researchers showed that the blood test was able to detect 89 percent of all relapses, on average 8.9 months quicker than imaging.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Approximately 55,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year in the UK, with 2 million cases estimated worldwide.
While the overall survival rate for breast cancer has improved, relapse remains a problem, with as many as 30 percent of patients seeing the cancer return within five years.
In the latest study, 49 patients with early-stage breast cancer were recruited from three NHS trusts in the UK (Imperial College Healthcare, The Christie Foundation and University Hospitals of Leicester) who had recently completed treatment with surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy.
The study included a cross section of breast cancer subtypes, including HER2-positive, hormone receptor-positive, and triple-negative. Blood samples were collected every 6 months for up to 4 years from each patient, and results were correlated with radiographic and clinical outcomes.
Signatera, the blood test developed by genetic testing company Natera, uses a molecular residual disease (MRD) assessment to detect even trace amounts of the mutant DNA released from dying tumors, enabling such early detection of relapse.