Researchers Have Uncovered a More Specific Method to Diagnose Breast Cancer

We all know that diagnosing cancer earlier means better outcomes for patients. It’s also essential to monitor the spread of cancer in already diagnosed patients. If we can watch as a cancer is beginning to spread to other parts of the body, we can begin to combat those cancer cells with treatment.

Researchers funded by the Natural Science Foundation in China have just uncovered a way to monitor the travel of cancer cells in breast cancer patients.

The Importance

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, and researchers have been working to understand how it spreads to other parts of the body. This metastasis to other parts of the body is the leading cause of death in these patients.

Cancer develops in parts of the body other than where it started through CTCs, or circulating tumor cells. Essentially, cells from the first tumor enter the blood cells and take up home elsewhere. If we can measure the amount of these cells in a patient, we can more accurately offer patients a prognosis and develop a specific treatment plan for their specific cancer stage.

Unfortunately, it is hard to detect these cells in the blood. The bloodstream is a very complex system in the body, and it can be difficult to sense and isolate one component from others. However, researcher Zai-Sheng Wu and his colleagues have just uncovered a way to do just that.

The Study

There are currently some technologies which work to do the exact thing that Zai-Sheng and his team were trying to uncover. However, these current tests lack specificity and sensitivity.

This team saw a need to make the identification process easier.

The researchers utilized a buffer solution that contained magnetic beads that were attached to antibodies working against ERB-2. Then, they added a DNA strand which could recognize EpCAM. EpCAM and ERB-2 are both proteins produced by breast cancer tumors. Next, fluorescence spectrometry was used to observe cancer cells within the solution. The team found 9 cells in a 200 ul solution

Then, the researchers tried their method in whole blood. They found similar fluorescent signals.

Although more research with this technology is needed, researchers are optimistic about its ability to be used as a tool for better prognosis, ultimately leading to better outcomes for patients.

You can read more about this study here.

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