Breast cancer is the most common disease affecting women around the world. Breast cancer does not always produce obvious symptoms at an early stage, which can lead to late detection and affect the effectiveness of treatment. Recently, researchers from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom figured that a blood test that screens the presence of certain antibodies could help detect breast cancer early and easily. They explained that when cancer is present, it produces antigens. These are substances induce an immune response. The immune system then tries to counteract these substances by releasing autoantibodies.
So, their team started developing a blood test that would be able to detect those autoantibodies in the blood and indicate whether or not breast cancer is present. They first developed panels of tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) specific to breast cancer. This allowed them to screen for the presence of autoantigens in the blood that are associated with a response to breast cancer-specific TAAs. Co-author Daniyah Alfattani, a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham said,” we were able to detect cancer with reasonable accuracy by identifying these autoantibodies in the blood. This innovative blood test could help specialists detect the presence of breast cancer up to 5 years before any visible symptoms occur.”
Alfattani has presented these results at the 2019 National Cancer Research Institute conference. The panel containing nine TAAs led to the detection of cancer in 37% of the samples from individuals with breast cancer, and it confirmed the lack of cancer in 79% of the control samples. The researchers are now taking this mission forward by testing blood samples from 800 people with breast cancer against a panel of nine TAAs. This, they hope, will lead to higher accuracy in the test results. The team believes that if this research obtains full funding in the near future, the test might become available to the public within the next 4–5 years.