Could A Simple Blood Test Detect Early Signs Of Breast Cancer?

First Posted: Dec 09, 2014 06:56 PM EST

Recent findings published in the journal Metallomics have found that a certain blood test can help doctors diagnose breast cancer at an earlier stage.

Researchers at the University of Oxford measured the body's zinc fluctuations to help determine early-stage signs of breast cancer.

For the study, they examined changes in the isotopic composition of zinc that has influenced a potential to reveal a "biomarker" of early breast cancer. Changes in zinc can be detected by analyzing blood samples that are collected from breast tissue.

Researchers examined five breast cancer patients and five healthy controls. They analyzed zinc in the blood and blood serum of the participants by using techniques that are over 100 times more sensitive to changes in the isotopic composition of metals.

The results showed that key differences in zinc caused when cancer subtly alters the way the cells process the metal.

"It has been known for over a decade that breast cancer tissues contain high concentrations of zinc but the exact molecular mechanisms that might cause this have remained a mystery," concluded lead researcher Dr. Fiona Larner of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences, in a news release. "Our work shows that techniques commonly used in earth sciences can help us to understand not only how zinc is used by tumor cells but also how breast cancer can lead to changes in zinc in an individual's blood - holding out the promise of an easily-detectable biomarker of early breast cancer."

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