Scientists found a molecule that helps tumours in an especially deadly form of breast cancer have grow and spread. The molecule, known as alpha v beta 6, could be used both to identify at-risk patients and develop new treatments, say scientists.
A study found high levels of alpha v beta 6 in 40% of tumours in women with HER2 positive breast cancer, a form of the disease that does not respond to conventional hormone therapy. These patients were twice as likely to die within five years of diagnosis as those with low levels of the molecule.
In experiments on mice with the same type of breast cancer, scientists used an antibody drug to block activity of alpha v beta 6. Combining the antibody with the drug Herceptin, which targets the cancer-driving HER2 protein, completely eradicated the animals' tumours after six weeks of treatment.
A simple blood test which could detect the early signs of breast cancer would allow a woman to "take control of her own risk", a medical expert said.
Dr Matthew Lam, senior research officer at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, described the findings as "definitely promising".
This could mean that in the future a woman may be able to have a simple blood test to look for this DNA signature, and therefore know if she is at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
If she does have this signature, she could then work with her doctor to explore the options available to help her take control of her own risk.
These could include lifestyle changes, tailored breast screening, risk-reducing drugs or surgery.
Data from a study into a potential blood test for breast cancer is "encouraging" as it would make early detection of the disease in all women much easier, a science chief has said.
Lead researcher on the study, Professor Martin Widschwendter, from University College London, said:
We identified an epigenetic signature in women with a mutated BRCA1 gene that was linked to increased cancer risk and lower survival rates.
Surprisingly, we found the same signature in large cohorts of women without the BRCA1 mutation and it was able to predict breast cancer risk several years before diagnosis.
The data is encouraging since it shows the potential of a blood-based epigenetic test to identify breast cancer risk in women without known predisposing genetic mutations.
A blood test for breast cancer could soon be available and offer an early warning system for all women, not just those with the BRCA genes, scientists said.
Experts found a molecular "switch" in blood samples which increase a women's chances of having breast cancer.
The marker is associated with the BRCA1 breast cancer gene but was also found in other breast cancer patients who went on to develop the disease.
Before this blood test there was no way of predicting the likelihood of breast cancer in someone if the disease did not run in their family.
Around 10% of breast cancers are caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene variants inherited from parents, leaving 90% of cases unexplained.
Eating a lot of red meat in early adulthood could be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, a new study suggests.
Having legumes - such as peas, beans and lentils - nuts, poultry, and fish instead of red meat could reduce the risk, they found.
Studies thus far have found no significant association between the consumption of red meat and breast cancer, but the team of US researchers said that most previous research has been based on diet during mid and later life.
Their study, published on bmj.com, looked at the dietary habits of 89,000 premenopausal women aged 26 to 43 in 1991.
Scientists behind the discovery that sufferers of aggressive breast cancer stand a better chance of survival if they have "killer" T-cells near their tumour said the finding was "key" to a better understanding of how to fight the disease.
Professor Peter Johnson,Cancer Research UK chief clinician, explained:
This research highlights the great strides we are making in understanding the complex interplay between cancer and the body's immune system.
These studies are key to informing how we are best able to treat patients in the clinic and to design better drugs that make the best use of the body's own defences.
The chances of beating aggressive breast cancer were raised for women who had "killer" T-cells near their tumour, a study has found.
The killer T-cells destroy cancerous cells by blasting them with toxic proteins and patients found to have them were 10% more likely to live for five years or more than a breast cancer sufferer without them.
The association was seen in women with non-hormone sensitive breast cancer and cancers marked by especially active HER2 genes.
Lead researcher Dr Raza Ali, a lecturer at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, explained: "This important insight could help doctors personalise a woman's treatment based on her immunological profile and also suggests new treatments should harness the immune system to fight cancer."
A patient using the breast cancer drug Kadcyla, which could be blocked from routine NHS access because it is too expensive, told ITV News the treatment had improved her quality of life.
"I was in quite a bad state, and within about two cycles my life felt like it had turned a corner. I was able to do things I wasn't able to do prior to being on this treatment," Mani said of the drug, which currently costs around £90,000 per patient.
The chief executive of health watchdog Nice told ITV News he is "disappointed" that drug manufacturer Roche has not offered the NHS a discount on a breast cancer drug that costs around £90,000 per patient.
Kadcyla, which extends women's lives by almost six months, could be blocked from routine NHS access because it is too expensive.
"Companies can discount their prices and they frequently do. Given the list price. I would have expected the company to have at least considered (a discount)," Andrew Dillon said.