A study looking for a way to identify breast cancer and to check how well treatment is working (EBLIS)

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study looked for biomarkers Open a glossary item in blood and tissue samples to help identify breast cancer sooner. They also wanted to check how well the cancer was responding to treatments.

This trial was open for people to join between 2013 and 2016. The team published the results in 2019.

Cancer Research UK supported this study.

More about this trial

Doctors look at selected biomarkers in the bloods of people with breast cancer. They use them to help with diagnosis.

The researchers wanted to see if they could identify a pattern of change in these biomarkers. They hoped to use this information to develop a blood test that doctors can use to diagnose earlier when a breast cancer comes back.  And to check how well the treatment was working.

Summary of results

The team found that they can use biomarkers that are particular to cancer to see whether the cancer was returning.  

About this study
49 people took part in this study. They joined after having surgery and before completing any further treatment. 

The team took blood samples from them every 6 months for 4 years. They looked for pieces of the cancer DNA Open a glossary item in the blood (ctDNA Open a glossary item). 
The cancer returned in 18 of the 49 people. The team found ctDNA in 16 of these 18 people. For the 2 people who didn’t have ctDNA in their blood:

  • in 1 person the cancer came back in the same area (local recurrence)
  • in the other person the cancer came back in their bones

The usual way to see if breast cancer is coming back is for a doctor to look at a scan.

The test was able to predict that a person’s cancer would come back up to 2 years before doctors were able to see a cancer on a scan. 

For these people the team looked at the ability of the test to correctly identify whose cancer was coming back. This is called the sensitivity of the test. They found that in 89 out of every 100 times (89%) the test was correct. 

They also looked at the ability of the test to correctly identify people whose cancer didn’t come back. This is called the specificity of the test. For this they looked at the tests done on those whose cancer didn’t come back. They found that it identified correctly for all of these people (100%). 

The team concluded that looking for the ctDNA in blood samples correctly identifies people whose cancer is coming back or not. More importantly by seeing the ctDNA up to 2 years before the cancer comes back provides a possible window to give treatments.  

There are further studies going on to look at this. 

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Charles Coombes

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Caroline took part in a clinical trial for breast cancer

“I had treatment last year and I want to give something back.”

Last reviewed:

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