Steve August 5, 2020
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Aug. 5 (UPI) — Researchers have developed a rapid, affordable, accurate test for breast cancer, according to a paper published Wednesday by the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A small study assessing the test’s accuracy found that it provided the correct result 100% of the time, and often in less than an hour, the researchers said.

The test, called CytoPAN, was designed for use in developing regions, where patients often face long wait times for a diagnosis, negatively impacting their prognosis, researchers said.

However, if larger studies find that it’s accurate, the new test could be used worldwide as an alternative to more expensive and invasive tests, the researchers said.

“Unfortunately, in many low- and middle-income countries, [breast cancer] diagnosis often takes an extraordinarily long time — up to a few months — due to a lack of specialists and limited laboratory infrastructure,” a researcher involved in the project, Hyungsoon Im, told UPI.

“From a public health aspect, it is critically important to develop new diagnostic methods that overcome these barriers,” said Im, assistant professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School.

Nearly 300,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, according to the American Cancer Society. However, the majority of the more than 2 million women with the disease globally live in developing regions like Africa, where two-thirds of all cancer deaths occur, Im said.

CytoPAN is an automated system that enables same-day diagnosis of breast cancer in a clinic or doctor’s office using “scant cellular specimens collected by fine-needle aspiration” rather than surgical tissue biopsy, according to Im.

Fine-needle aspiration is minimally invasive, has few complications and generally is safe, “making it feasible to be performed even in resource-limiting settings at much lower costs,” Im said.

“This could lead to earlier … treatment and accelerate new drug testing in clinical trials,” he said.

CytoPAN works with image cytometry, a technique that images and analyzes individual cells collected by fine-needle aspiration for malignancy, he said.

For the study, Im and colleagues evaluated the testing platform in 68 patients with breast cancer in South Korea.

The technology spotted cancers with an accuracy of 100%, using as few as 50 cells per specimen, the researchers said. The test also identified ER/PR and HER2, two key breast cancer biomarkers — or clinical signs of the disease — with an accuracy of 93% and 96%.

The technology requires minimal training and costs about $5 per test kit. This, researchers said, is roughly one-fifth the price of most commonly used diagnostics.

The researchers are currently testing CytoPAN in a U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial in Botswana with a larger population of patients, they said.

“We are also preparing additional trials in the U.S. and other countries,” Im said. “The success in those trials will [hopefully] accelerate … widespread adoption of the technology.”

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