Early detection of primary breast cancers and metastases: an outstanding challenge


Early detection by mammography screening has significantly contributed to decrease breast cancer mortality, however, mammography has important limitations that call for alternative detection methods, including low compliance, unpleasant procedure, limited specificity and sensitivity, overdiagnosis/overtreatments, and risk of X-ray induced DNA damage. Also, as more effective therapies for advanced breast cancer are entering clinical practice, there is a growing need for detecting relapses as early as possible to effectively adapt therapy, but no specific tests exist for this purpose.

To address these needs, we have set up a new method to identify biomarkers associated with the presence of primary or metastatic breast cancer, via a multi-omics approach.

The test is based on multiple cancer-induced alterations in blood leukocytes. This is a paradigm-shifting concept compared to the classical detection of cancer-derived biomarkers.

The implications of a blood-based screening test for breast cancer are huge, as it may fundamentally change the way women are screened. The test could be applied more frequently without risk of radiation exposure, with increased specificity and sensitivity compared to mammography. Importantly, it could be applied to women below 40 years and to women with dense breasts. The test would be less uncomfortable than mammography and would increase compliance. It could still be combined with mammography and other imaging modalities.

A monitoring test after initial therapy for the detection of breast cancer relapses before metastases become symptomatic would allow rapid therapy adaptation before significant organ disruption and therapy resistance have developed. Such a test would be integrated into current follow-up protocols without disrupting ongoing therapeutical care.


To improve target detection, we have developed a new generation of bio-inspired nano-sensors based on DNA origami nanotechnology allowing detection of multiple targets (multiplexing) at pico-femtomolar concentrations with minimal preanalytical processing and fluorescent readouts compatible with existing diagnostic equipments.

These nanosensors may be integrated into the above detection tests, or used independently, as a rapid single-step molecular diagnostic test in point-of-care devices. Because of their high sensitivity and specificity, simplicity, and low cost, they will change the way molecular cancer diagnostic tests are performed.


Our technology can be rapidly adapted to detect additional cancers (such as lung, pancreatic or colorectal cancer), monitoring efficacy or therapy, including targeted-therapies and immunotherapies (i.e. response, cure, progression), and non-cancerous conditions such as chronic inflammatory diseases.

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