Women who were diagnosed in late stages of breast cancer may feel that there is very little hope left for them. Breast cancer treatment is never easy, but it is especially heart-breaking when someone has been found to have late-stage cancer. However, men and women in this situation may breathe a little easier. A new treatment has been created that may extend their lifespan.

Scientists from the University of Leicester have discovered a “liquid biopsy” test that could extend life for breast cancer patients, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. The “liquid biopsy” test looks at the DNA of the tumor including 13 different genes that may have changed or mutated.

This test could help doctors identify the drivers of particular breast cancers and find the treatment that would be more effective at curing individual cancers. The HER2 gene, a common one associated with breast cancer development, can be analyzed to check whether a mutation is advancing the disease.

The HER2 gene mutation is associated with as much as 25 percent of all breast cancer cases. Women found with HER2 positive breast cancer have been found to respond well to the drug Herceptin.

This blood test is especially important for women who are diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, the news source reports. The researchers of the “liquid biopsy” test looked at the blood donated from 42 women who were diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.

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The scientists discovered that treatment could be altered in as much as 20 percent of all cases. Out of all women diagnosed with breast cancer in a typical year, approximately 10 percent have stage 4 breast cancer and only a two-year life expectancy.

This “liquid biopsy” test could be key for extending the lifespan of women with late-stage breast cancer. It offers another tool in a doctor’s arsenal that could save and extend lives.

“By analysing blood plasma to measure for cancer-specific changes to key breast cancer genes … we hope this test could help doctors and patients choose the best treatment at the best time,” said Dr. David Guttery of the University of Leicester.

This research was published in the journal Clinical Chemistry and shows the first time that scientists were able to assess two different types of DNA mutations in a single blood test, reports the Independent publication.

The researchers looked at cells that were grown in the lab as well as the DNA in blood donated by 42 women. The analysis shows that half of the women’s blood samples were associated with cancer-specific genetic changes.

The scientists also examined the blood of nine healthy women and found no cancer-specific genetic mutations in their blood.

The blood test can also identify genetic mutations in the estrogen receptor gene ESR1. Mutations in this gene have been associated with resisting anti-hormone treatments like aromatase inhibitors.

Other types of chemotherapy treatments may be suggested for women with mutations in these genes. This clearly shows that the “liquid biopsy” test can help doctors personalize treatment for each patient’s particular late-stage breast cancer.

“We have developed a novel blood test that can simultaneously detect somatic mutations and copy number alterations that are integral in driving the growth of breast cancer,” Dr. Guttery explained the future for this blood test. “This study represents proof of concept, and further validation is now needed to confirm the clinical usefulness of this test before any test could be rolled out.”

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