New research could identify ways to prevent breast cancer spreading to the brain

Scientists say they have made an important discovery in breast cancer research Credit: PA

Breast cancer that is destined to attack the brain could soon be identified with a blood test. That's according to new research led by the University of Wolverhampton.

Scientists studied 24 breast tumours that had attacked the brain and discovered several faulty gene 'switches' linked to this type of cancer spread.

Findings show that two of the chemical 'switches' (that turn genes on and off) became defective early on in the development of breast cancer, leading researchers to believe that they could serve as an early warning sign for tumours heading to the brain.

They are now using this information to develop a blood test which may be able to detect the faults at an early stage before the cancer has had the chance to spread.

Up to 30% of breast cancers will eventually spread to the brain, often many years after the original tumour has been treated.

Survival rates of people with brain metastasis (where breast cancer has spread to the brain) are very low. Most women survive just seven months after the breast cancer has reached the brain, even if they have had surgery or radiotherapy.

Each year almost 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK and around 11,600 die from the disease.