Leicester University experts in study to spot early signs of breast cancer
Scientists are leading a new study into whether a simple blood test is an effective way of detecting the early signs of breast cancer.
Researchers believe using such a test could be a more accurate method of identifying the early stages of the disease than using a mammogram to spot a lump.
If the trial is successful, women could have a blood test every year rather than undergo breast screening.
Experts at the University of Leicester are working with colleagues at Imperial College London on the study, which is being given more than £1 million over five years by the charity Cancer Research UK.
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Dr Jacqui Shaw, principal investigator from the University of Leicester, said: "This exciting research means we could one day have a blood test that detects the very early signs of cancer, meaning women could have an annual blood test rather than breast screening.
"This would remove any worry for women called for further investigations after a mammogram, only to find they don't have cancer."
The clinical study is about to begin at London's Charing Cross Hospital, which has the UK's largest breast screening clinic.
The research will involve comparing DNA "markers" in blood samples from women who have breast cancer, and those who have not, to establish how early the signs of the disease show up in blood.
"When a woman has breast cancer, we can tell by the DNA in her blood," said Professor Charles Coombes, the study's co-investigator at Imperial College. "What we are trying to find out is how early the signs of cancer show up in a blood test."
The blood test could also help to improve treatments for patients by detecting whether they were likely to relapse and what drugs their particular type of tumour would respond to. Prof Coombes said while the research team was looking specifically at breast cancer, other projects were looking at the possibility of using a blood test to detect cancers of the bowel and lung cancers.
Nadine Lewin, 51, from Ellistown, was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. She had treatment that was successful, and has now been clear of the disease for more than five years.
She said the new study was "very good news".
"This blood test sounds like a fantastic idea and I am all in favour of it," said Ms Lewin.
"I've heard that women avoid going for a mammogram, but people aren't afraid of a blood test in the same way.
"If they could pop along to their community hospital and have a quick blood test it would be so much easier."