Christiana Care scientists discover possible breakthrough breast cancer blood test


Scientists  at the Center for Translational Cancer Research (CTCR) at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute of Christiana Care Health System have developed a  new blood test to diagnose breast cancer. Plans call for applying for approval for clinical trials.

Senior Scientist Jennifer Sims-Mourtada, Ph.D., director of Translational Breast Cancer Research at  Graham developed the test with scientists from Genome Profiling LLC (GenPro). GenPro lists an address at the Graham center, which is located south of Newark.

“This simple blood test, used in combination with mammography, can be a transformative tool in the fight against breast cancer by determining whether cancer is present in the breast and whether the cancer is likely to spread,”  Sims-Mourtada said. “Using this test could minimize over-diagnosis and treatment while potentially providing significant savings in healthcare-related costs. Studies have shown that mammograms alone are not optimal for diagnosing all types of breast cancer.”

The test focuses on identifying an epigenetic biomarker within circulating blood cells’ DNA that are part of the body’s immune system and is different from other diagnostic tests that target cancer tumors.

  “Commercializing an epigenetic-based diagnostic test into a simple and cost-effective blood screening test can have huge implications for early intervention strategies in breast cancer,” said GenPro co-founder Adam Marsh, Ph.D. GenPro is a molecular information company specializing in the discovery of novel epigenetic biomarkers using its genome-wide profiling platform.

“Right now there is no truly effective method for routine monitoring of patients to follow in response to treatment for breast cancer and for possible recurrence of cancer,”  Sims-Mourtada said. “Using the assay we have developed, in conjunction with routine monitoring, enables us to follow changes in the immune response to detect an increase in tumor cells over time. This test can allow for much earlier detection of recurrence or metastatic disease before it is visible with standard imaging and enable much earlier treatment.”

Christiana Care and GenPro have filed a provisional patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as the first step in the process toward clinical trials and FDA approval for a  new blood screening test.

The Center for Translational Cancer Research was integrated into the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute in 2009 to expand translational cancer research opportunities to include partnerships with leading research centers, including The Wistar Institute, the University of Delaware, Nemours /A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children, the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and GenPro.

The partnerships allow physicians and scientific researchers to work side-by-side, identifying needs of individual patients, bringing those problems to the lab to explore solutions and then returning to the bedside where those results can be used to help patients, a release stated.


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