A young University of Western Australia PhD student is hoping to develop a quick, simple and less invasive blood test that could detect breast cancer progression or relapse with the help of Cancer Council WA funding.
23-year-old Olivia Ruhen and her supervisors Dr Katie Meehan and Prof Wendy Erber in the Translational Cancer Pathology Laboratory at UWA are working on the project which involves identifying molecular markers in blood samples taken from breast cancer patients who are participating in the trial at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
Ms Ruhen, who was awarded one of our $36,000 PhD Top Up Scholarship earlier this year, said the blood test would produce results faster than conventional methods such as mammography or CT scans and more invasive surgical procedures such as a biopsy.
The project involves examining tumour samples from patients to screen their DNA for cancer associated genetic changes within each tumour. Molecules within the patients' blood will then be comprehensively examined to determine whether genetic changes can be detected by a simple blood test.
Molecules within the patients' blood will also be comprehensively examined to determine whether these genetic changes can be detected by a simple blood test.
"We then do genetic testing on the markers and try and match them to the genetics of the patient's tumour," she explained.
Ms Ruhen said she was very grateful for our scholarship which has provided additional professional opportunities and added passion for her research work.
"Knowing I have the added support of Cancer Council donors makes a huge difference to my work," she said.
"This is an exciting project to work on because it's highly translational research, meaning we're right there at the crossroads between medicine in the clinic and science at the lab bench."
Ms Ruhen said while this study involves working with breast cancer patients, ideally this method could be adapted to any cancer patient.
"We hope data from our study will eventually help develop a specific blood test to more effectively monitor disease progression, detect recurrence of a tumour earlier which could potentially improve a patient's outlook or survival prospects," she said.
Watch this space!
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