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New research funded by Breast Cancer Now and Cancer Research UK has found that a new blood test can detect breast cancer tumour DNA.

The test can detect and monitor changes in 13 different genes. One gene that can be examined is called HER2. This gene plays a part in the development of up to 25 per cent of breast cancer cases.

If a HER2 breast cancer is detected, doctors know that this cancer can be treated with the drug Herceptin.

Dr David Guttery, from the University of Leicester, is positive about the findings of the research: “By analysing blood plasma to measure for cancer-specific changes to key breast cancer genes – including the HER2 and oestrogen receptor genes – we hope this test could help doctors and patients choose the best treatment at the best time,

According to the charity Macmillan, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK and 10 per cent of women have stage four breast cancer when they are diagnosed. The average survival rate at this stage is two years.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, told the Press Association: “If validated by further research, this blood test could help tell us how a patient’s secondary breast cancer is evolving. 

“Analysing the genetic make-up of tumours could enable us to identify women who might benefit from changing their treatment, ensuring that breast cancer patients receive the most personalised therapy possible.”

The study was published in the Clinical Chemistry journal, looked at cells grown in a laboratory before they analysed the DNA from blood donated by women with advanced breast cancer.

“This study represents proof of concept, and further validation is now needed to confirm the clinical usefulness of this test before any test could be rolled out,” continued Dr Guttery.

Dr Justine Alford, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “While survival for women with early breast cancer has greatly improved, the outlook for patients with advanced disease is still poor, something we urgently need to change. This early research could help achieve this”.

There is currently no information on when the “liquid biopsies” will be available to all patients.

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