Breast Cancer Detection Improves through Methylation-Specific PCR

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found a way to test for breast cancer in body fluid that doubles the rate of detection of the life threatening disease. Their work, reported in the June 1 edition of Clinical Cancer Research, shows an improvement in diagnosis from 33 percent through traditional cytology methods to 71 percent using a quantitative multiplex methylation-specific PCR (QM-MSP).

    Cytopathologists correctly identified seven of 21 (33 percent) fluid samples containing cancer, and ruled out the disease in nearly all cases negative for cancer (92 of 93 samples, 99 percent). QM-MSP doubled the cancer detection rate to 71 percent by spotting 15 of 21 samples known positive for cancer. Of 76 samples negative for cancer, QM-MSP concurred on 63 (83 percent).
The test works by checking for the methylation states of five to ten genes found to be more highly methylated in breast cancer cells from breast fluid. The percent of methylation at the specific sites are then added together for a cumulative score, and compared with a standard threshold value. If the methylation score is higher than the threshold value, cancer cells may be present.

The researchers note that the accuracy in detecting breast cancer through methylation detection in breast fluid would likely improve by being able to obtain fluid from all of the breast ducts, which is currently being investigated by other researchers. Link

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