Scientists have discovered that the levels of two proteins in the blood could be used to predict the survival chances of women with breast cancer.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that when levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A (SAA) were high, the chance of survival was reduced.
Both CRP and SAA are released into the bloodstream in response to cytokines, which trigger inflammation. Clinical data suggests that chronic inflammation promotes the development of breast tumours.
A team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle measured levels of the proteins in 734 breast cancer patients 31 months after diagnosis.
Over the next seven years they found women whose SAA levels were in the top third of the overall range were three times more likely to die than those whose levels were in the bottom third.
Women with the highest levels of CRP had a two-fold increased risk of death.
Study leader Dr Cornelia Ulrich said: ‘It appears that there may be a threshold effect in that only women in the highest third of inflammation markers had increased mortality.’
In previous studies, researchers found that before surgery breast cancer patients with an advanced form of the disease had elevated levels of CRP.