Food scientists develop new way to predict breast cancer with blood test


2015-04-16 18:44

Researchers have discovered they can predict who will develop breast cancer years into the future by looking at blood test samples using a food science method. The scientists say the results of their investigation could mean a paradigm shift in the way breast cancer is diagnosed.

Copenhagen researchers used metabolic blood profiles that analyze the amounts of all compounds (metabolites) in our blood for their investigation.

The approach that uses a computer model to analyze and explore biological data is adapted from food science using NMR spectography. Food scientists use spectography to study fats, oils and water in foods.

Rasmus Bro, a professor of chemometrics in the Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen explained in a press release: "When a huge amount of relevant measurements from many individuals is used to assess health risks - here breast cancer - it creates very high quality information. The more measurements our analyses contain, the better the model handles complex problems."

The study

The researchers used blood samples from a population study of 57,000 people followed by the Danish Cancer Society over 20 years.

Included were 400 women diagnosed with breast cancer two to 7 years after submitting a first blood test. The scientists compared the metabolites in the women with breast cancer to 400 women who did not develop the disease. The women were initially examined between 1994 and 1996.

As a validation, results were compared to a dataset of women who were first examined in 1997 and the results were the same.

Blood profile changes before breast cancer develops

Rather than measuring a single biomarker for breast cancer, the researchers looked at how metabolites in blood interact as a pattern to predict the disease. .

The researchers discovered metabolites in the blood process differently before breast cancer develops - something the investigators hope could be used for better prevention and treatment of the disease.

"No single part of the pattern is actually necessary nor sufficient. It is the whole pattern that predicts the cancer," said
Lars Ove Dragsted, a professor of biomedicine in the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

The researchers say the metabolic blood profile predicts the chances that a woman will develop breast cancer in two to 5 with, eighty-percent accuracy. In comparison, mammography is 75 percent accurate and only detects cancer once it develops.

The study was recently published in Metabolomics. Dragsted notes the model could likely be used to predict other diseases. More studies are needed to validate the findings in other populations before the new type of blood test could be used for predicting breast cancer.

Image NMR tube Wikimedia Commons
User:Kjaergaard.

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