Skip to main content
Research news

Research funded by Against Breast Cancer has been published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Cancer confirming a new blood test can detect if breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

The test distinguished between patients with secondary breast cancer and those who remained disease free for 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis.

New Blood Test Could Detect Secondary Breast Cancer Earlier

Using blood proteins to detect secondary breast cancer

Researchers at the Against Breast Cancer Research Unit, University of Westminster analysed the blood of 112 breast cancer patients using samples collected as part of our DietCompLyf study. They detected higher levels of a protein called cadherin-5 that had unusual sugars decorating its surface in women who went on to be diagnosed with secondary breast cancer over a year later, indicating that the sensitivity of current blood tests could be improved upon for earlier diagnosis of secondary disease.

Dr Miriam Dwek, Reader and Group Leader of the Research Unit at the University of Westminster who led the research says “This research verified the results of our previous work in a larger group of patients, defining cadherin-5 proteins that display abnormal sugar arrangements as a new biomarker for metastatic, or secondary breast cancer. The blood test worked particularly well at identifying metastasis in a sub-group of patients with oestrogen responsive breast cancers, which make up 70% of all breast cancers diagnosed and we are excited and hope to develop this test further so in the future there will be improved methods for the better monitoring of patients. At the moment the test is not ‘patient ready’ but the initial results are encouraging.”

More sensitive, non-invasive tests are required for secondary breast cancer, which occurs when new tumours grow in other parts of the body to make diagnosis easier and for treatment to begin as early as possible.

We envisage a future where a home test blood or urine kit for secondary breast cancer is available, much like those used to monitor diabetes or for pregnancy testing, this work takes us a step closer to that goal.

More women and men are surviving breast cancer than ever before and better monitoring tools are needed not only to detect secondary spread and begin treatment as early as possible, but also to empower survivors of breast cancer, survivors like Stevie Webb who at 27 years old was diagnosed with an aggressive primary breast cancer that was classified as ‘high-risk of recurrence.

Stevie completed her treatment in 2015 and is now determined to live life to the full. She recently completed a 280km Husky Trail across Norway and Sweden with 10 friends, raising almost £9000 for Against Breast Cancer. Speaking about her cancer, she said “You always think about breast cancer, If I ever feel ill, I feel I’m going to be really ill… I’m more paranoid now, I was a free spirit and now I worry more”.

We are determined to address the emotional burden that the threat of secondary spread can cause.

Read Stevie’s full story here