Could a simple blood test be the future of breast cancer screening?

In October we saw plenty of pink ribbons and heard a lot of talk about breast cancer awareness. (I covered this topic several times last month. To read up, click here to search the archives.) And yet, there wasn’t much attention paid to a study that might revolutionize awareness of the disease in a way that matters most — with a simple, safe, and reliable method of confirming the accuracy of breast cancer screenings.

More importantly, this could be a significant breakthrough for women with dense breast tissue.

About half of all women in the U.S. have dense breasts. This puts them at greater risk of breast cancer, while the density also makes accurate detection of tumors more difficult.

But a simple blood test may change all that — and help put millions of minds at ease.

Researchers for Provista Diagnostics in Scottsdale, AZ, have developed what they call a multi-protein biomarker blood test. The test — called Videssa Breast — assesses 11 protein biomarkers in the blood, along with more than 30 autoantibodies linked with tumors.

In a new trial of their technique, Provista researchers recruited more than 540 women with abnormal or difficult-to-interpret mammograms. After each woman had additional testing with Videssa Breast, researchers were able to assess something called “negative predictive value” or NPV.

NPV refers to the probability that a negative screening result is indeed negative. (In other words, it helps answer the question, “My test was negative. Does this mean I absolutely don’t have cancer?”)

In the Provista test, the NPV was 99.1% in women with dense breasts, and 99.3% in women with non-dense breast tissue.

These highly successful results parallel a study published in the journal Clinical Breast Cancer earlier this year. In that trial, recommendations for follow up biopsies based on Videssa Breast results reduced false positives by nearly 70%.

If this level of effectiveness holds strong throughout upcoming trials, Videssa Breast could have a significant impact in reducing unnecessary biopsies and other procedures.

This means greater peace of mind and much less expense for thousands of women.

Of course, it’s always important to consider that these results are coming from research conducted by Provista Diagnostics — the company that developed Videssa Breast.

So with a grain of salt, we’ll be cautiously optimistic. Cautious until we see further independent research to confirm effectiveness. And optimistic because Videssa Breast is already in use and winning over health professionals.

One primary care physician (who was not involved in the study but has used Videssa Breast in his own practice) told Forbes magazine: “I see these diagnostic uncertainties after breast cancer screening almost daily. When a mammogram comes back abnormal, I can tell my patient that it appears benign. But with Videssa Breast, I can give her much more powerful reassurance that it is not cancer.”

That’s an encouraging statement, given what we already know about some of the dilemmas women and their doctors face with the complexities of false positives. The numbers are astounding.

In one exhaustive study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that doctors overdiagnosed more than 80 percent of small tumors, which otherwise, would’ve never become a problem. In a large percentage of those cases, dense breast tissue played a key role in the misdiagnosis.

Hopefully we’ll soon be putting most of those concerns behind us, with innovative breast cancer screening techniques like thermography (a non-radiation screening alternative to mammograms), and Videssa Breast. Rest assured, we’ll continue to bring our readers the latest on this life-changing health breakthrough.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
Provista Diagnostics
October 25, 2017
Blood-Based Breast Cancer Detection Test May Help Avoid Biopsy
May 25, 2017