In the United States this year, more than 40,000 women will die from Breast Cancer, and one in eight women will develop in, during the course of their lives.
The key is to catch it early, and researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have made a major breakthrough, resulting in a test that could potentially save many lives.
"We were looking for something in the blood that would indicate the presence of cancer at its earliest stages," said Dr. Josh LaBaer, Executive Director of ASU's Biodesign Institute.
When LaBaer met researcher Karen Anderson, he had worked on the approach he described for nearly two decades.
"It started with an interest in how the immune system was seeing and reacting to breast cancer," said Anderson.
LaBaer and Anderson formed a great collaboration, like Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Both believe that they could detect cancer in the body by tracking the body's immune response, long before the patient exhibits symptoms.
Since 2003, the duo have been identifying proteins produced, when the body fights cancer. With thousands of proteins in the body, the trick was to pinpoint the specific ones that would indicate Breast Cancer.
After nearly 15 years, and looking at 10,000 proteins, they narrowed down the marker proteins from 28 to 13. The result of that research is a blood test called Videssa Breast, developed by Provista Diagnostics.
"No scalpel, no needle to take the tissue out," said David Reese, Ph.D, President and CEO of Provista. "We just draw a tube of blood."
When a mammogram detects an abnormality, the blood test can rule out cancer, which also eliminates unnecessary biopsies.
"That's a tremendous amount of expense in the system," said Reese. "It's a tremendous amount of time for the woman. It's very inconvenient. It can cause a lot of anxiety. This is what we want to reduce."
Videssa Breast can also pick up cancers a mammogram might miss. That could have an impact on those with dense breast tissue. More than a third of all women have that, and mammograms, in this case, don't work well in identifying tumors.
"I have to continue to go for mammograms," said Lisa Cook. "I continually get an abnormal mammogram, which means I have to go back for additional mammography and ultrasounds."
The new blood test gives Cook peace of mind.
"I don't have to worry about the fact that, wow, is it cancer or is it not cancer," said Cook.
For LaBaer, the search for a better test is also personal: his mother died from Breast Cancer.
"Certainly, if we had caught it much earlier and there had been a blood test that had picked it up much earlier, who knows?" said LaBaer.
Videssa Breast is a new technology, and is in limited use.
Videssa Breast information
Call Provista Diagnostics at: (855) 552-7439