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William J. Gradishar, MD, FACP, FASCO


EBCC 2022: Are Changes in Blood Proteins an Early Signal of Breast Cancer?

By: Susan Reckling
Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2022

According to research recently presented as a plenary session at the 2022 European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC; presentation number PPT-051), small changes in the levels of certain proteins were found up to 2 years before a breast cancer diagnosis. The findings from the TESTBREAST study suggest that blood testing for individuals with a genetic predisposition or a family history of breast cancer may lead to early diagnosis and treatment. Further research is underway to validate these findings.

“This underlines the significance of longitudinal serum measurements, that patients can serve as their own controls, and the relevance of the current study setup for early detection,” stated PhD candidate Sophie Hagenaars, MSc, of Leiden University Medical Center, the Netherlands, and colleagues.

An ongoing study for 10 years, TESTBREAST currently includes 1,174 women who are at high risk of breast cancer; they are offered breast screening at a younger age and more regularly than the rest of the Dutch population at average risk of breast cancer. The investigators used mass spectrometry to analyze the levels of different proteins in the women’s blood. Longitudinally acquired blood samples of the high-risk women were collected one to four times per year.

Thus far, more than 3,000 serum samples have been acquired. The researchers made detailed analyses of 30 blood samples taken over time from three women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and three women who have not; they found “unique, strong patterns of protein clustering for each patient, indicating a greater interpatient than intrapatient variability in protein levels of the longitudinally acquired samples.” A targeted panel of six proteins that are indicative of the onset of early-stage breast cancer was selected (P < .05). Between patients and controls, these protein levels differed, and the levels were found to have changed 1 to 2 years before a clinical diagnosis.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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