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CR UK research backs liquid biopsy for breast cancer

Cancer Research UK scientists are working on a new blood test able to identify rare mutations in advanced breast cancer, which could give patients quicker access to the most effective treatments.

As part of the plasmaMATCH clinical trial, funded by Stand Up To Cancer, a joint fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, the researchers detected mutations in tumour DNA, which had been shed into the bloodstream.

They found specific weaknesses in the breast cancer DNA that could be targeted with medicine, “suggesting that this blood test could be a better way of guiding treatment than standard tissue biopsies, which can be painful and take longer to analyse”.

“The choice of targeted treatment we give to patients is usually based on the mutations found in the original breast tumour. But their cancer can have different mutations after it has moved to other parts of the body,” explained Professor Nicholas Turner, Professor of Molecular Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden.

“We have now confirmed that blood tests can quickly give us a bigger picture of the mutations are present within multiple tumours throughout the body, getting the results back to patients accurately and faster than we could before.

“This is a huge step in terms of making decisions in the clinic, particularly for those women with advanced breast cancer who could quickly be put on new targeted treatments matched to their cancer if it evolves to become drug resistant.”