A US health expert has claimed a new breast cancer survival test based on counting tumour cells should become standard practice in treating patients.
Doctors would be able to decide when to change or discontinue therapy if the test, which predicts a woman’s chances of staying alive, was introduced, according to Dr Antonio Giordano.
The doctor, from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, showed the link between the number of tumour cells in the blood and a woman’s chances of survival when breast cancer was at an advanced stage.
Using a “neural network” computer programme, they assessed 516 breast cancer patients with metastatic, or spreading, disease.
The findings were presented at the IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels.
Dr Giordano said: “We found that there was a linear relationship between the number of circulating tumour cells and the risk of death in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Most importantly, the risk of death after one year for patients with 40 circulating tumour cells in 7.5 millilitres (ml) of blood was about twice that for patients with none.”
Counting circulating tumour cells should now be considered a standard test for women with advanced breast cancer, he added.
“While the treatment of this condition remains palliative, monitoring of circulating tumour cells can help determine when to modify regimens or discontinue therapy; in other words, this can improve the delivery of personalised therapy,” said Dr Giordano.