Researchers found that a new type of prenatal blood test can not only detect genetic flaws in the baby, but it can also reveal hidden cancer in the mother.
Scientists made the discovery after re-assessing the blood test results of eight pregnant women. Although the results initially had shown genetic abnormalities in the babies, after some other tests doctors learned that the babies were perfectly healthy, but their mothers had cancer instead.
The new prenatal tests were introduced for the first time in 2011. Back then, they were considered a major breakthrough because they could diagnose genetic flaws in the unborn babies by just looking at the blood of the pregnant women. Yet, the recent study shows that those tests can also be used to learn whether the mothers are affected by undiagnosed cancer.
The study authors presented the results July 13 at a gathering of the International Society for Prenatal Diagnosis members in Washington, D.C. And a paper on the findings was recently published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Because the said prenatal blood tests allow researchers to analyze the genetic material of both mother and baby, possibilities are endless, doctors explained.
“When the test first came out we didn’t think about cancer being a possibility. I’ve been working in this field for 25 years, and it’s something that we never expected to find,”
said Dr. Diana Bianchi, head of the Tufts Medical Center’s Mother Infant Research Institute in Boston who was also involved in the study.
Dr. Bianchi, however, disclosed that in several cases the results of the prenatal blood results had nothing to do with the babies. That’s why she recommended her patients to double check positive results with more invasive diagnostic tools such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis diagnosis tests.
Although the tests were especially designed for mothers that are at a high risk of delivering babies affected by chromosomal abnormalities such as the Down Syndrome, doctors and patients alike used them in other cases, as well. Since 2011, over 2 million of prenatal blood tests were conducted worldwide.
The study was funded by are Illumina Inc. and Sequenom Inc., which have a direct stake in the tests.
During their research, scientists sifted through a database containing more than 120,000 blood samples taken from pregnant women between 2012 and 2014. In 3 percent of the cases, or about 3,700 blood samples, the tests showed positive results for fetal abnormalities.
In a follow-up, researchers found a clear cancer diagnosis in mothers in 10 cases. The three women who found they had cancer due to the abnormal findings in the blood tests reported that they feel their babies saved their lives.
Image Source: Huffington Post
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