August 1, 2008 Biochemists look at 22 protein biomarkers to distinguish patients with breast cancer from those without it. The early detection test complements mammograms and is most applicable to women who are at a high risk for the disease. The test analyzes blood serum and researchers are using a similar process to develop a test for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
A new blood test could tell you if you have breast cancer before it shows up on a mammogram.
Doctors say they've cracked a code that could save lives. They've created a test that can detect breast cancer even when a mammogram doesn't. It's called the BC-SeraPro.
"This is a test for measuring the concentration of proteins in the blood and how they differ from the normal state will tell is about the presence of disease," says Ira Goldknopf, Ph.D., director of proteomics at Power3 Medical in the Woodlands, Texas.
Dr. Goldknopf has been studying proteomics for more than 30 years. Proteomics is similar to genetic testing, but while genetic testing screens for disease causing genes, proteomics looks for certain protein markers in a person's blood.
"The method analyzes specific proteins and these proteins show what is going on with the patient in terms of the disease and how the disease is playing out on the patient," Dr. Goldknopf says.
Unlike mammograms, which give false positives 10% of the time and false negatives about 20% of the time. Dr. Essam Sheta, Ph.D., director of biochemistry at Power3 Medical, says the BC-SeraPro will be able to give a definite answer. "You could say it can catch it before because we see some elements of that where the test says positive but a mammogram says negative," says Dr. Sheta.
Early studies show the BC-SeraPro has a 90% success rate. It's just one of two tests being launched by Power3 medical. A protein-based test for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's comes out later this year. The CEO of Power3 says it's just the beginning. "Any disease that has a need we will be able to find a blood test for," says Steve Rash, CEO of Power3 Medical.
Doctors say this test is ideal for women who are considered at high risk for breast cancer. The test should be available in breast cancer clinics early next year.
WHAT ARE BLOOD MARKERS? A blood marker is any component in the blood that's associated with a condition, disease or symptom. Doctors look for something in the blood that they know affects, or is affected by, something else. Blood markers can indicate whether a system is healthy and functioning properly or if there's something wrong. In recent years, several studies have shown that higher amounts of proteins in the blood may be associated with various diseases. Identifying such biological markers as early as possible, before the onset of symptoms, could lead to earlier and better diagnoses, and earlier treatment. For instance, if elevated concentrations of certain neural growth "markers" are present at birth, it may be an indication that autism or mental retardation will develop later in childhood. Or, as with the BC Serapro test, the blood may contain indicators of breast cancer.
ABOUT BREAST CANCER: Breast cancer is a type of cancer in which cells in the breast become abnormal and grow and divide uncontrollably, eventually forming a mass called a tumor. Some tumors are benign, meaning that they do not invade other types of tissue, although if they become big enough, they can interfere with some bodily functions, such as the flow of blood or urine. Malignant tumors have cells that can invade nearby tissues. When a cancer "metastasizes," cells from the original tumor break off and travel to other parts of the body via the blood or lymph systems. More than 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts within the breast. The next most common site is in the glandular tissue that makes the milk.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.