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Breast Cancer: New Test Determines If Disease Will Spread To Brain

First Posted: Oct 21, 2015 03:23 PM EDT
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A new test may help identify if particularly aggressive forms of breast cancer are at risk of spreading to the brain. The findings are published in the journal npj Breast Cancer.

Findings revealed that participants who tested positive for the gene known as alpha beta (αB)-crystallin were up to three times more likely to have a disease that spread to the brain when compared to counterparts who tested negative.

During the study, researchers analyzed 969 breast cancer tumors that metastasized to new sites in the body from a database of over 4,000 breast cancers via the British Cancer Agency. From this number, 141 spread first to the brain, according to researchers.

Some 127 scored positive for αB-crystallin, and 842 negative -- with those testing positive three times more likely to have spread first to the brain.

A further analysis of all 4,000 cases also revealed a significantly higher death risk when  αB-crystallin was present. In fact, 36 percent of women with αB-crystallin tested positive cancer died within ten years of diagnosis when compared to 25 percent with αB-crystallin negative cancer.

"Our study linked a positive score in this test with quicker spread to the brain, and importantly showed the factor we were measuring is providing information on patient outcome independently of other biomarkers already measured in the clinic," said co-leader of the study Dr. Maggie Cheang, Senior Staff Scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, in a news release"The test needs further development before it will be ready for routine clinical use, but ultimately the first use of this type of test could be to identify opportunities for women with advanced specific types of breast cancer -- such as triple negative -- to enter clinical trials of new treatments."

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