Blood Dx quickens search for breast cancer mutations

The race to develop ever-faster blood diagnostic tests for breast cancer gene mutations continues apace, with scientists at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Medical Center potentially poised to take the lead.

Researchers there say they've come up with a new blood test designed to detect BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations within 6 days, The Jerusalem Post reports, versus standard diagnostic tests that currently take a few weeks. That would even be faster than scientists in Canada, where a team led by Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and others used long-range polymerase chain reaction to sequence noncoding regions of genes in order to spot the BRCA1/2 mutations. That diagnostic took about 12 days, an improvement over the standard of care, but clearly now relatively "fast" in the fast-moving field of research.

Details are published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

As The Jerusalem Post notes, the Hadassah researchers came up with a test that quickly uses white blood cells both separated and cultured. Scientists irradiated the cells and then measured the expression of 18 genes. Polymerase chain reaction technology also came into play here to help narrow the gene number to that level--selecting genes where mutations stood out the most. A subsequent validation study of 40 BRCA carriers versus a control group determined a 95% sensitivity and 88% specificity.

Further studies are needed, of course, to make sure the Hadassah approach is viable. But the focus on a faster diagnostic for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations is a hugely competitive affair in the bid to develop game-changing breast cancer diagnostics.

Myriad Genetics ($MYGN), for example, has patents regarding the use of both BRCA1 and BRCA2 to identify hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. And now the company will fight in the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether human genes can be patented.

- read the Jerusalem Post's story
- here's the journal abstract