Wouldn’t it be preferable to detect breast cancer with just a drop of blood instead of the agony of a mammogram? That is the goal of several pharmaceutical companies including cancer-diagnostics company Cynvenio Biosystems, which has begun marketing its new ClearID tests for detecting breast-cancer recurrence in women whose disease is in remission, as well as finding breast cancer in women at high risk for breast cancer by looking for tumor cells circulating in the blood.
If the level of these "circulating tumor cells" is above a certain baseline, further testing will then be performed.
Although other tests using levels of circulating tumor cells to monitor some patients whose disease has already metasticized, Cynveio Biosytems claims its test is “more sensitive, and may benefit women who have no symptoms of cancer.”
However, Dr. Lee Schwartzberg, a scientific adviser at Cynvenio Biosystems, did admit that there is no real evidence of whether the company's test is helpful for asymptomatic patients. “Instead the test is marketed as a way to provide peace of mind for patients,” he stated.
To date, breast cancer survivors are generally monitored by physical exams and mammograms every 6-12 months. However, Dr. Charles Shapiro, director of breast medical oncology at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center states that tumor markers like Clear ID, as well as CT scans “are not recommended for women who don't have any symptoms.”
In the meantime, the FDA is studying the effectiveness of the VeraMarker blood test for breast cancer from Matrix-Bio. While it been licensed to Quest Diagnostics is not currently available to physicians or patients.