A team of scientists led by the University of Southern California (USC) has discovered signs that a blood test called liquid biopsy can tell if a patient has breast cancer in its early stages and whether it is not likely to reoccur.

USC said the high-definition comprehensive liquid biopsies are done using the standard blood draw from a patient’s arm and then the sample is checked for cancer signs in the lab.

The study supporting the efficacy of liquid biopsies for early breast cancer identification was published in Nature’s npj Breast Cancer journal.

USC conducted the study in close collaboration with Billings Clinic, Epic Sciences, Duke University, and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

USC cancer physicist Peter Kuhn and his team conducted the study on 100 breast cancer patients, in whom the cancer was in the early stage and in some in the late stage. The study also had 40 patients who did not have breast cancer between April 2013 and January 2017.

According to the university, the team tested a hypothesis that the liquid biopsy may identify various cancer biomarkers, including the oncosomes, nanosized, membrane cargo carriers that enrich the body’s environment for growth of cancer.

The team of scientists had demonstrated in the past that cancer cells release the oncosomes.

Kuhn said:  “The news here is that we found the vast majority of early-stage breast cancer patients have these oncosomes at very robust levels.

“They’re about 5-10 microns in diameter, about the size of a cell. We first identified these large vesicles in prostate cancer about a year-and-a-half ago and showed that they are related to the cancer. They are hiding in plain sight.”

The USC Michelson Convergent Science Institute in Cancer (CSI-Cancer) researchers aim to test the results in larger clinical studies and show the benefit of the method for patients everywhere.

According to Kuhn, the liquid biopsy has the potential to become a diagnostic tool for early breast cancer detection and other malignancies if further studies yield similar results.