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According to an article recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, circulating DNA is a promising indication for the risk of cancer spread or progression among patients with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in over 200,000 women annually in the United States. Standard treatment for breast cancer is determined by the stage, or extent of spread of the cancer. Because treatment depends on staging, accurately determining how far the cancer has spread is a necessary part of reaching optimal outcomes. Researchers continue to evaluate ways to improve standard methods used to stage breast cancer.

Researchers from California recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate the size of DNA found in circulating blood and its potential for determining the risk of cancer spread among women with breast cancer. This study included 83 women diagnosed with breast cancer, the majority of whom had early-stage breast cancer (cancer has not spread to distant sites in the body), and 51 women who did not have breast cancer. Women had physical characteristics of their DNA measured from circulating blood samples. These measures were then compared with outcomes of the women.

  • Some physical characteristics of DNA fragments, referred to as DNA integrity, were associated with the size of the cancer.
  • DNA integrity was also associated with cancer spread to the lymph nodes.

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The researchers concluded that DNA integrity may be a promising way to identify breast cancer progression or spread to the lymph nodes. Further trials are necessary to determine the true potential value of this marker for patients with breast cancer.

Reference: Umetani N, Giuliano A, Hiramatsu S, et al. Prediction of Breast Tumor Progression by Integrity of Free Circulating DNA in Serum. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2006;24:4270-4276.

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