Avera Cancer Institute participates in research that validates new blood test for breast cancer

Published: Jun. 8, 2017 at 1:39 PM CDT
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Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls has taken part in national research resulting in the validation of a new blood test that, when used with imaging, can improve breast cancer detection and substantially reduce unnecessary biopsies.

The research results that validate the effectiveness of Videssa® Breast, developed by Provista Diagnostics, Inc., are published in the June 2017 edition of Clinical Breast Cancer Journal. After completion of the clinical study, Avera Cancer Institute was chosen to provide early access to this test and continues to offer it in day-to-day breast cancer diagnostic care.

“We’ve been involved in this research for the past five years, and are pleased to see the study results published,” said Josie R. Alpers, MD, Director of Mammography at Avera Breast Center, primary investigator and study co-author. “This is very exciting work,” said Alpers, noting that Videssa and the research surrounding it has been accepted as part of the federal government’s Cancer Moonshot program to transform cancer care and research.

For patients with abnormal or difficult-to-interpret mammograms, breast imaging has known limitations. This can lead to uncertainty about follow-up testing and patient anxiety. Videssa is the first blood test on the market that is specifically used for the detection of breast cancer.

“When a mammogram yields an abnormal result, the challenge is to decide which patients need follow-up, further imaging or biopsy,” Alpers said. “A test that is well-validated in a prospective trial means clinicians have a new way to accurately identify which patients may or may not need additional follow-up.”

When used in conjunction with breast imaging tests such as digital mammography and contrast-enhanced spectral mammography (CESM), Videssa could reduce the need for breast biopsy by up to 67 percent. Without the use of Videssa, based on age, 70 to 90 percent of breast biopsy results are benign.

“The vast majority of abnormal mammograms turn out to be benign, but before Videssa, we have needed to do a biopsy in many cases to find out for sure,” said Tricia Merrigan, MD, Avera Medical Group breast surgeon. “Based on these study results, if the Videssa test comes back negative, we can give strong assurance that it is not breast cancer. If the test result is positive, that tells us we should do more tests, such as a biopsy, to confirm whether or not it’s cancer.”

This study tested the performance of Videssa Breast among women under age 50. Videssa was nearly 99 percent effective in proving the patient does not have breast cancer. Subsequent studies have validated the test for ages 25 to 75.

“The results tell us that this test is extremely effective in ruling out breast cancer,” Alpers said. “After an abnormal mammogram, this is exactly what women need to know. Videssa allows us to confidently give women assurance that they do not have breast cancer, or advise them that they should have further testing, such as biopsy.”

Avera was the only study site in the Midwest. “We were one of the first sites to test the blood assay, and we were second in the nation among the 13 sites in the number of volunteers,” Alpers said. “I want to sincerely thank all the women who participated in this trial, because they have advanced the detection of breast cancer.”

Videssa looks for specific protein biomarkers and autoantibodies in the blood that would indicate if breast cancer is present. It is important to note that Videssa helps determine whether a patient has breast cancer at the present moment in time, not future risk of developing the disease.

“Avera has been thrilled to take part in the Videssa clinical trial,” Merrigan said. “We’ve already helped numerous women through the use of this test in everyday practice, either by giving them peace of mind, or by quickly moving ahead to biopsy and diagnosing breast cancer as soon as possible in order to begin treatment.”

Avera continues to offer the Videssa test to breast patients. For more information, call the Avera Cancer Institute Navigation Center at 1-888-422-1410.