Posted by: Sophie Khatib1 OCT 2012
Well I wasn’t going to write another blog so soon, but I just had to get this down!
After being set a piece of work on personalised medicines and biomarkers, I started in the normal fashion – a literature search. The title given to me was around the topic of biomarker uses in breast cancer. After trawling through lots of research papers, I was amazed by the success rate (or not!) of mammography to detect early breast cancer. Since it is used in screening i.e. testing those patients who are asymptomatic, I would expect it to have a fairly high success rate – I was wrong! Apparently over 10% of breast cancers may be missed and the test also produces a high level of false positives, so why are we still continuing to use it? Probably because it is the best we have got at the minute. Sad but true. BUT research is well underway, and pushing forward, in the area or biomarkers. Once a biomarker is well established, characterised and thoroughly investigated, tests could be carried out on a patient to establish if a patient expresses this biomarker, and at what levels, in order to refine and increase the accuracy of diagnosis. As well as being used for diagnosis, biomarker tests have a huge advantage over traditional methods because they may also be able to be tested and enable the healthcare professional (hopefully a pharmacist!) to predict if and how a patient may respond to an anticancer agent. Biomarkers could be used in conjunction with traditional methods such as mammography in order to increase the sensitivity of these tests – could this be the way forward?