Researchers Advance Search For Laboratory Test to Predict Spread of Breast Cancer

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Researchers Advance Search For Laboratory Test to Predict Spread of Breast Cancer

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and other institutions report that a new laboratory test that induces cancer cells to squeeze through narrow spaces has the potential to accurately predict which breast cancers and other solid tumors are likely to spread, or metastasize, to other sites.

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and other institutions report that a new laboratory test that induces cancer cells to squeeze through narrow spaces has the potential to accurately predict which breast cancers and other solid tumors are likely to spread, or metastasize, to other sites. The test, they say, might also help clinicians select the best drugs to prevent cancer’s spread.

The team received a United States patent on the test, called Microfluidic Assay for quantification of Cell Invasion (MAqCI), which uses a device to assess three key features of metastasis: cancer cells’ ability to move, to compress in order to enter narrow channels and to proliferate. In laboratory experiments, the MAqCI device accurately predicted the metastatic potential of breast cancer cell lines and of patient-derived tumors grown in animals in a majority of specimens.

A description of the experiments is published online in the current issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.

While additional studies are needed to confirm and expand the test’s capabilities, researchers are encouraged by their results so far, says senior study author Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, Ph.D., the William H. Schwarz Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Cancer Invasion and Metastasis Program. Konstantopoulos also is professor of biomedical engineering and of oncology at Johns Hopkins, and is a core researcher for the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

The challenge of predicting which patients with breast cancer will develop metastases — the hallmark of life-threatening disease — can lead to overtreatment of patients with benign disease, as well as inadequate treatment of more aggressive cancers, he says. “When a lump is detected in a patient’s body, the doctor can determine if the mass is benign or malignant through a biopsy, but they cannot really say with confidence if a malignant tumor is going to be highly aggressive and metastasize to other locations,” says Konstantopoulos.

Read on: Researchers Advance Search For Laboratory Test to Predict Spread of Breast Cancer

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