Breast cancer blood test 'remains on the horizon'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers at the University of Southampton have identified proteins in blood samples taken from 30,000 women which might indicate the presence of breast cancer.

They hope that the discovery will one day lead to a blood test for breast cancer, which could enable doctors to detect the presence of the disease before symptoms become apparent.

However, Cancer Research UK stressed that a clinically useful blood test for breast cancer is still a long way off.

Dr Lesley Walker, the charity's director of cancer information, said: "A number of blood tests to detect breast cancer are being investigated, which could be used to screen those most at risk and detect the disease earlier than current methods allow.

"But research in this area is at a very early stage so at the moment the use of such a test to diagnose patients with breast cancer remains on the horizon."

The protein 'biomarkers' are being studied by researchers analysing blood samples collected from 30,000 women in Guernsey over the last 30 years, 1,000 of whom have since died from breast cancer.

One in nine women develop breast cancer and early diagnosis and timely treatment are important factors in surviving the disease.

Lead researcher Paul Townsend, a human geneticist at Southampton University, said that he is encouraged by their early findings.

"Already we have seen significant biomarkers of breast cancer in the samples," he revealed.

"The quality of the samples we have from Guernsey has been the key but it is early days.

"The ultimate dream is to take a sample of blood and get a characterisation of what might happen to them later in terms of illness."