Blood Test for Breast Cancer Possible by Looking at Isotopes, Study Reports

Blood Test for Breast Cancer Possible by Looking at Isotopes, Study Reports
Detecting and monitoring breast cancer may one day be performed through a simple blood test, a new study suggests, showing that measuring naturally occurring carbon and nitrogen isotopes can help to reveal the presence of cancer cells. The study, "13C and 15N natural isotope abundance reflects breast cancer cell metabolism," published in Scientific Reports, was developed at The Australian National University. "A blood test for breast cancer is several years away from being used in hospitals, but we think we have discovered a new way of detecting breast cancer in the first instance as well as ongoing monitoring," Guillaume Tcherkez, a professor and ARC Future Fellow at the ANU Research School of Biology. Chemical elements like carbon and nitrogen can differ in their neutron number, generating what is called isotopes. Although carbon-12 (12C) carbon and nitrogen-14 (14N) are the most common isotopes, 13C and 15N can also be found in living organisms as byproducts of their metabolism. Several medical applications of these stable isotopes currently exist, like the 13C-urea breath assay used to detect ulcers. Changes in metabolism, like those that occur in cancer, may cause enzymes to use more of a rare isotope instead of a common isotope, leading to changes in their natural abundance that can be easily assessed. To address whether the metabolic alterations known to occur in breast cancer could be changing the ratio of such isotopes, the researchers tested intact breast cancer biopsi
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