Breast cancer testing breakthroughs and participating in clinical trials

Miniature implanted ‘scaffold’ could detect breast cancer spread

Tiny implants under the skin could one day detect the spread of breast cancer early, according to a US study (link is external). The small device can capture cancer cells that have moved away from the primary tumour and entered the bloodstream – a process called metastasis.

In studies in mice, the University of Michigan research team found that these spreading cells were detected before any other signs the disease had spread. This could give doctors time to intervene with surgery or other therapies to halt the spread, according to the study published in the journal Cancer Research – read more

Commentary by Dr. Stegall: This is an interesting idea, however, I have concerns about the long-term safety of an implantable device such as this. Plus, the blood test we do in my office to check for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is a similar way to gauge the presence of and potential for metastasis.


Biomedicine – Illumina’s Bid to Beat Cancer with DNA Tests

The DNA sequencing giant will launch a new company, Grail, to develop blood tests to detect cancer.
The world’s largest DNA sequencing company says it will form a new company to develop blood tests that cost $1,000 or less and can detect many types of cancer before symptoms arise.

Illumina, based in San Diego, said its blood tests should reach the market by 2019, and would be offered through doctors’ offices or possibly a network of testing centers.

The spin-off’s name, Grail, reflects surging expectations around new types of DNA tests that might do more to defeat cancer than the more than $90 billion spent each year by doctors and hospitals on cancer drugs. Illumina CEO Jay Flatley says he hopes the tests could be a “turning point in the war on cancer.” read more

Commentary by Dr. Stegall: While genetic testing is all the rage in the oncology world today, and can offer meaningful information, I believe that focusing on genetics is a mistake. Cancer is a metabolic disease, triggered by a series of toxic and metabolic insults to normal cells which causes them to mutate into cancer cells. With only a few exceptions, the genetic alterations we see in cancer are a symptom of the problem, and not the cause of it.


BreastCancerTrials.org (BCT) is a non-profit service that encourages individuals affected by breast cancer to consider clinical trials as a routine option for care.

To make this possible they:
Help individuals who are interested in breast cancer research find studies that are right for them.
List all of the U.S-based trials on ClinicalTrials.gov and Cancer.gov that are currently looking for volunteers.
Provide accurate information about why clinical trials are important and how they are structured.
Help researchers and site coordinators connect more efficiently with volunteers who are interested in their studies.
Help care providers and patient navigators find trials for patients.

Read more

Commentary by Dr. Stegall: Clinical trials can be a wonderful option for patients who have failed conventional therapies and are looking for a different avenue. However, I always encourage patients to investigate the phase of the study, because this defines the primary objective of the study. For example, phase I trials evaluate safety, proper dose ranges, and possible side effects. Phase II trials further assess safety and also evaluate effectiveness of the treatment. It is not until phase III trials that a treatment is evaluated for effectiveness on a larger scale and compared to existing treatments. So while clinical trials can certainly be of benefit, there are no guarantees and it is important to know what kind of “experiment” is being done on you.

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