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Developing a test to look for hundreds of cancer DNA mutations in a single blood sample, to guide treatment

Scientific Officer:Matthew Beaney. Budgeted Cost £218,543. Started December 2018.

Project Summary

Some patients diagnosed with breast cancer are cured by surgery alone. However, many also need chemotherapy to improve their chances of being cured. Working closely with other similar projects, including Grant 6 and Grant 3, this project aims to identify which patients would benefit from chemotherapy, much more accurately than we can currently. It also aims to identify who is still at risk of relapse despite receiving chemotherapy, so we can tailor their treatment accordingly. 


Matthew has developed extra-sensitive tests for cancer DNA mutations in blood, by developing patient specific panels that will look for more mutations in a single test than was previously achievable.

Current tests which look for traces of cancer in the blood are not sensitive enough to consider withdrawing potentially lifesaving chemotherapy from patients who have actually been cured by surgery alone. Access to the lab was restricted during the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, but Matthew has now started to validate approaches that can dramatically improve our ability to detect very low levels of cancer in the body, including estrogen receptor positive breast cancers known to release very low levels of tumour DNA into the blood stream. Ultimately, the aim is to develop a new test that is robust and accurate enough to be used to direct treatment plans. The team are hopeful that the new test will allow some women to avoid unnecessary chemotherapy and help to ensure women with breast cancer can receive more personalised and kinder treatment with better outcomes. 


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