Test to predict risk of breast cancer spreading to brain

New York: Researchers have developed a new tumour marker test that may help predict whether breast cancer is likely to spread or metastasise to the brain, a deadly complication.

“Our hope is that this test will become a useful biomarker to identify breast cancer patients at high risk for brain metastasis so that they could be monitored more closely or enrolled in trials of new agents to prevent brain metastasis,” said study co-leader Vincent Cryns, professor of medicine at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

The approach was based on prior laboratory experiments by Cryns on a cell stress protein called alpha B-crystallin.

For the new research, the team analysed nearly 4,000 breast tumour samples from women with long-term clinical follow up, including sites of metastasis.

The researchers found that among women with metastatic disease, women whose breast tumours expressed B-crystallin were nearly three times more likely to develop brain metastasis than women whose breast tumours did not express this protein.

Alpha B-crystallin expression also predicted shorter survival after the initial breast cancer diagnosis and after the diagnosis of brain metastasis.

“The results were completely consistent with our predictions based on our prior laboratory studies,” study co-leader Cryns said.

Cryns said that these results need to be validated in additional studies before this test could be used in the clinic.