Blood Test May Predict Breast Cancer Relapse

July 10, 2019 (Medical News Today) 

Behind lung cancer, breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer for women in the United States, and for those who have survived breast cancer, fear of recurrence is a heavy burden.

According to studies, estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancers are more likely to recur in the first 5 years after diagnosis, while estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancers are associated with a higher risk of recurrence in the following 10 years.

From the very nature of the cancerous cells to the when treatment begins, researchers are still trying to understand the factors of breast tumor recurrence.

Now, new research is looking into the body’s antitumor inflammatory response to devise a blood test that soon may be able to predict a patient’s chances of experiencing breast cancer recurrence.

A person’s antitumor reaction may be determined by “the balance between the immune system’s pro and anti-inflammatory signaling in response to cytokines.” 

In a study, 40 breast cancer survivors were recruited and clinically followed them for an average of four years. Researchers also included an additional sample of 38 breast cancer survivors, trying to replicate their findings from the first group.

“People with cancer tend to have peripheral blood regulatory T cells with less active pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways and more active immune suppressive cytokine signaling pathways.” This environment can lead to cancer spreading.

The researchers found that the signaling response in T-reg cells was altered for two pro-inflammatory and two anti-inflammatory cytokines in some breast cancer survivors. These signaling responses aligned with the state of the participant’s immune systems and the accurate predictions of their breast cancer recurrence within the following 3-5 years.

Overall, physicians and patients now may better understand the risk of the disease recurring.

Findings from this study may also be useful in addressing other diseases that impact the immune system.

Read more about this study and its implications.