Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Breast Cancer Detection Tests
Saliva Test, Digital Mammography, Computerized Thermal Imaging
Exciting advances in breast-cancer diagnostics and treatment may one day make standard mammograms, surgery and radiation obsolete.

Saliva Test
In a preliminary study, researchers measured saliva levels of HER2, a protein that is elevated in some breast-cancer cases. They were able to identify 87 percent of those with the disease.

Status: Not yet available. The company that developed the saliva test hopes to apply for FDA approval by the end of 2003.

Digital Mammography
Recent reports show that a mammogram is only as good as the quality of the scan and the skill of the person reading it. Digital mammograms, unlike X-ray film, can be manipulated to improve brightness and contrast. They can also be combined with computer-aided detection systems as a way to help flag suspicious areas in the breast.

Status: The FDA approved digital mammography in 2000, and availability is growing as clinics invest in the equipment. A large trial is under way to compare digital and conventional mammography.

Computerized Thermal Imaging
A heat-sensitive camera captures thermal images of the breast, which can be analyzed to help doctors decide if a suspect area should be biopsied. The technique is based on slight temperature variations between benign and malignant lesions.

Status: It's currently under FDA review and available only to patients in clinical studies


Researchers Developing Saliva Test to Detect Breast Cancer (dateline April 10, 2002) Format for Printing

Researchers are working on a new saliva test to help detect breast cancer, according to data presented at the annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research. The test measures the amount of HER2 found in a sample of a patient’s saliva. HER2 is a genetic material that, when present in large amounts, has been associated with breast cancer. While the new test is still under development, researchers believe that it may eventually help to detect breast cancer in its early stages and also help physicians monitor treatment in women already diagnosed with the disease.

HER2 (also written HER2/neu)...

According to Dr. Streckfus, the test is not meant to replace breast cancer screening tests, such as mammography or physician-performed clinical breast exams. However, if proven beneficial, the saliva test could be a valuable supplement to these established screening methods, or it could be used as a follow-up test if a screening mammogram detected a breast abnormality. In addition to detecting breast cancer, Dr. Streckfus believes that the saliva test could be used on breast cancer patients to determine whether their treatments are succeeding.

However, the saliva test would not likely detect breast cancer in all women who had the disease because the test identifies elevated HER2 protein levels, which occurs in only around 30% of breast cancer cases. Recently, researchers have developed a drug therapy called Herceptin (generic name, trastuzumab) that seeks out and destroys extra copies of HER2. Herceptin is one of the new "targeted" drug therapies that many experts believe will become more commonly used as advances in cancer treatment continue


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