A first-of-its-kind blood test that can detect breast cancer even in very early stages was launched in the country on June 22 and has been made available by Datar Cancer Genetics which has partnered with the Apollo group of hospitals.
The test, being branded as EasyCheck Breast, will cost Rs 6,000. It was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in November last year and is indicated as an annual test for healthy women above the age of 40 years who may not have any symptoms.
It is available in nearly 15 countries including in Europe under different brand names.
The technology claims to have nearly 99 percent sensitivity, which means it has less than 1 percent of false-positive reports, with over 88 percent specificity, which means that in about 12 percent of cases there is a chance of false negativity though.
To begin with, the test will be available through Apollo’s hospitals but the group wants to expand it to all of its 1,600 blood collection centers eventually.
Prathap Reddy, founder, and chairman of Apollo hospitals dubbed the test as a revolutionary step in the direction of catching breast cancer very early in Indian women.
Datar, however, has made it clear that despite the test’s high success rate in detecting cancer at a very early stage, this should not be treated as a replacement for the conventional screening tools for breast cancer such as mammograms and ultrasonography.
Dr. Ramesh Sarin, a senior surgical oncologist with Apollo hospital in Delhi pointed out at the launch of the test that women who test positive for cancer using the new technology can forego conventional screening examinations and can straight away go for a biopsy and plan their treatment.
However, those who test negative should still also go for other screening tests to rule out cancer completely.
How it works
This blood test uses a proprietary technology developed by Datar Cancer Genetics to detect circulating tumor cells and clusters or biomarkers that are specific to breast cancer with very high accuracy.
Data from clinical trials, conducted on over 8,000 women in India, for the test has shown that it can detect stage 0 and Stage 1 breast cancers with an accuracy of better than 99% without any false positives.
The test has been validated on more than 20,000 women comprising healthy and cancer patients, the company said. The advantage of the test is that it requires only 5 ml of blood and does not involve exposure to any radiation or discomfort associated with mammography.
The data presented by Dr Chirantan Bose, director, of patient services at Datar showed that the test can detect more than 80 percent of cases in stage 0, over 90 percent cases in stage 1, over 95 percent cases in stage 2 and 3 and 100 percent cases in stage 4 of cancer.
Breast cancer burden in India
While breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women globally and has now surpassed lung cancer as the leading cause of global cancer incidence in 2020, in India too, the incidence has increased significantly, almost by 50 percent, between 1965 and 1985.
The estimated number of incident cases in India in 2020 was 180000 and experts say that nearly 50 percent of those diagnosed with this malignancy die due to late diagnoses and bad prognosis (treatment outcome).
Statistics show that a whopping 80 percent of the breast cancer cases in India are detected at stages two and three while this number is just 29 percent in the case the USA.On the contrary, just about 10 percent of cases of breast cancer in India are detected in stage 0 or 1 when the minimum medical intervention may be required to treat it with a near possibility of cure.