Breast cancer could be diagnosed up to five years before there are any clinical symptoms with the new blood test identifying tumour-associated antigens (TAAs), shows a recent study. The test detects the body’s immune response to antigens produced by tumour cells.
The study which was conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham (UK) was presented at the 2019 NCRI Cancer Conference held in Glasgow, UK from 3-5 November.
TAAs are proteins produced by cancer cells that trigger the body to make antibodies against them forming autoantibodies.
TAAs, thus being a good indicator of cancer have been developed into panels containing known antigens found associated with breast cancer. The panel test could then detect if there were any autoantibodies against them in the blood samples procured from patients.
For the pilot study, researchers acquired blood samples from 90 breast cancer patients at the time they were diagnosed with breast cancer and compared them with samples taken from the control group who was found negative for the disease.
The blood samples were then screened using a protein microarray technique for the presence of autoantibodies against 40 TAAs known to be associated with breast cancer, and 27 TAAs that were not linked with the disease.
The findings showed that breast cancer does induce autoantibodies against panels of specific tumour-associated antigens, say the researchers.
The accuracy of the test improved with the presence of more TAAs. The researchers tested three panels containing five, seven and nine TAAs and found that the panel could correctly detect breast cancer with an accuracy of 29%, 35% and 37% respectively. The control samples could also be differentiated by the panels with an accuracy of about 85% to 79% respectively.
The team hopes to further develop and validate the test with improved accuracy for early detection of breast cancer. The researchers are now testing samples from a larger cohort including about 800 patients against a panel of nine TAAs.