Every year almost 40,000 women die from metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer that has spread out of the breast tissue to affect other organs in the body.
Breast cancer metastasizes in about 40 percent of breast cancer patients.
Researchers have now identified a marker called TMEM (Tumor MicroEnvironment of Metastasis) which may predict when breast cancer may metastasize.
Using this test, patients risk for metastasis could be designated as either high or low, and they would be treated accordingly. This could ensure that patients at high risk received the treatment needed as quickly as possible, and prevent over treating patients at low risk.
The test involves taking a tissue sample from the breast. Researchers found that patients who had a generally good outcome had a low TMEM count, while patients who went on to develop systemic metastases had a count of TMEM twice as high.
TMEM seems to indicate the ability of cancer to spread through the blood to affect organs at some distance from the breast.
In the United States, about 1 in 8 women will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer can occur as quickly as three years or as slowly as 10 years after the first diagnosis.