New Blood Test May Predict Potential Breast Cancer Relapse

Researchers achieve first success in linking a solid tumor with blood biomarkers, which is often an indicator of whether a patient with breast cancer will remain in remission.

A blood test might one day predict whether a newly diagnosed patient with breast cancer will likely relapse years later, a City of Hope study suggests.

According to the study authors, this is the first success in linking a solid tumor with blood biomarkers, which is often an indicator of whether a patient will remain in remission. New staging and tests based on genomics, such as this one, are important. The authors noted that when patients are first diagnosed with cancer, physicians must determine early whether they have a risk of relapse in order to determine the right course of action for treatments and monitoring.

In the study, published in Nature Immunology, investigators used data on 40 breast cancer patients who were followed for a median of 4 years. Results were then validated in a separate cohort of 38 additional patients with breast cancer to create a benchmark that predicts whether these patients will relapse in the future.

According to the press release, the effectiveness of an individual’s anti-tumor immune response is determined by the balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signaling pathways in response to cytokines. These signaling responses in peripheral blood immune cells are often indicators of the overall state of a person’s immune system.

Peripheral blood immune cells in a patient with cancer tend to have decreased pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling response and increased immune suppressive cytokine signaling responses. This immune environment is conducive to the spread of cancer.

Researchers analyzed signaling responses to many pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in different immune cell types that are found in peripheral blood from newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. They found altered signaling to 4 different cytokines in regulatory T cells in some patients. These patterns predict future relapse 3 to 5 years later, according to the study authors.

The scientists used their data to create a cytokine signaling index as a benchmark. The goal is that a patient could go in for a blood test and have their data run through an algorithm that will output a number that informs doctors what the patient’s risk of cancer recurrence is within 3 to 5 years.