Dr. Ben Green Is leading a research project looking at new methods for predicting and detecting breast cancer recurrence via blood test, in what is being labeled ‘Liquid Biopsy in Breast Cancer’.

The project is being conducted as part of a joint effort between University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), Queensland Institute of Medical research (QIMR) Berghofer Centre and the Breast cancer specialists at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s’ Hospital (RBWH) where Dr. Green works as part of the Breast Surgical team.

Overall Breast cancer is very well treated in Australia. 5-year survival rates are around the 85% for all patients. Unfortunately there are still a large number of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer who will develop spread of the disease (metastasis) and eventually pass away as a result of the breast cancer. This is despite undergoing extensive surgery and a combination of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and Herceptin treatment.

Currently there is no possible way to detect and predict which patients are failing treatment and going to develop spread of the disease until it has already occurred and can be seen on a Mammogram, ultrasound or CT scan.

The research Dr. Green is leading is looking at the possibility of being able to detect the return of a patient’s breast cancer long before it is detected on imaging. This will provide the opportunity to begin a new treatment prior to the spreading disease having a chance to take hold and grow.

DNA Exctraction - closeup of equipment

Dr. Green is particularly interested in markers in a patient’s blood that can be detected via a simple blood test – A liquid Biopsy.

Specifically, when a cancer is present in the body it is releasing a small amount of DNA into the blood that is unique to the tumour. The DNA that is free in the blood can possibly act as a partial fingerprint and allow identification of the breast tumour itself. Part of the work Dr. Green has been performing has resulted in the detection of the tumour’s DNA in the blood.

The tumour DNA can be monitored to see if it is reducing and ultimately being removed form the blood as a patient undergoes their treatment. Similarly during the follow up period a blood test can allow the research team to look for tumour DNA in the blood, which is returning, and signify that this patient is failing treatment.

This research is still in its infancy and a large quantity of work is still required until the possibility of ‘liquid biopsies’ becomes a reality. As steps are made and more information comes to light during the project more information will be made available.

If you would like to know more details about the research please contact Dr. Green’s rooms. Similarly if you wish to be involved in donating to the research team at the UQCCR Breast Bank where this research is being conducted please either contact Dr. Green or the UQCCR breast Bank manager (Prof Sunil Lakhani lab) on (07) 33466052.