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Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 02:01 GMT
New breast cancer test discovered
breast scan Discovery could help cancer treatment

Scientists believe they have found a new way of predicting the long-term survival chances of women with breast cancer.

They claim that women whose tumours have high levels of a protein known as BAG-1 have a better chance of living disease-free for longer and living longer overall.

Women with high levels of the protein in their breast tumours had a 10 year survival rate of 81%, compared to a 50% chance of living 10 years for women with low levels, according to research led by Dr Bruce Turner, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.

Dr Turner, whose team followed 116 women over a 12 year period, said: "The difference in survival between these patient groups is quite large and we think we have come up with a novel marker that may be an important diagnostic test for physicians."

The team tested tumour tissue and found BAG-1 to be a better cancer predictor than established markers such as oestrogen receptors, he told the 22nd San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

We think we have come up with a novel marker that may be an important diagnostic test
Dr Bruce Turner
The new knowledge could be used to assess how women with early-stage breast cancer should be treated, particularly in the case of patients with negative lymph nodes, for whom high-dose chemotherapy remains controversial.

Women with high levels of BAG-1, who had better survival chances, might not be treated with chemotherapy.

At risk

"Now we know that women with negative lymph nodes and low levels of BAG-1 are at risk of developing metastatic (secondary) disease and may be good candidates for aggressive cancer treatments," said Dr Turner.

Studies looking at thousands of women were needed, he added.

Dr Lesley Walker, head of scientific information at the Cancer Research Campaign, said that BAG-1 was known to be present at high levels in 80% of cases where breast cancer has developed.

Finding that low levels of the protein are detrimental to women was, therefore, "counter-intuitive", she said.

"You wouldn't expect it because other people have shown that there are high levels of BAG-1 in invasive breast cancer," she said.

But she added: "I hope the breast cancer community will now follow this up. If it is true, it could be useful."

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See also:
25 Nov 99 |  Health
Microwave hope for breast cancer
12 Apr 99 |  Health
Breast cancer 'more than one disease'
13 Sep 99 |  Health
Breast cancer tests 'flawed'

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