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Murray Journal

Murray’s IMC Breast Care Center initiates major breast cancer study

Nov 01, 2017 11:14AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

IMC’s Breast Care Center in Murray will be part of a major breast cancer study. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

“Have you called the right person?” That’s what former Murray school teacher Janice Wuckert recalls asking her doctor’s office when they called to tell her that her mammogram had detected breast cancer. 

“I thought they made a mistake. I had no personal history of cancer, and I wasn’t showing any signs or symptoms,” she said.

Wuckert was thrilled when cancer researchers at Intermountain Medical Center announced on October 9 that they were studying a promising new blood test to accompany mammograms for improved diagnosis of breast cancer.

“I love it. I was excited to hear about it. I think this is making great strides,” enthused Wuckert.

Cancer researchers at Intermountain Medical Center and the Intermountain Precision Genomics Program have launched the three-year study to determine if a blood test that looks for DNA from a cancerous tumor can be used to complement mammography. 

For the non-scientist, and according to the journal Nature, “The genome is the set of all genes… and other information contained within… an organism’s DNA. Thus, genomics is… the culmination of… information about vast numbers of genes and DNA sequences from scores of organisms.”

“The idea behind the science is simple, though researchers say the execution is not yet proven: Little pieces of DNA that come from dying cells end up in the peripheral blood stream, including circulating tumor cells. The goal of researchers is to use those markers to identify breast cancer, perhaps even before mammography can detect it,” said Lincoln Nadauld, MD, PhD, co-lead investigator of the study and executive director of the Intermountain Healthcare Precision Genomics Program. 

Intermountain’s Breast Care Center is ideal for this study, according to Nadauld, because there is access to many patients in one place who are getting mammograms. Second, the researchers have access to the results of those mammograms; they know if the results were positive or negative. The third major factor is Intermountain’s genomic technology capability.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. In Utah, only about 65 percent of eligible women are screened, despite recommendations that women over 40 receive yearly mammograms.

Wuckert admits that she didn’t always get tested annually, but was glad her conscience won over in getting her scheduled for a mammogram. “I think it’s the ‘mom culture.’ Women want to make sure everyone else is taken care of before they get themselves checked out.”

“We don’t know what we’ll see yet,” said Brett Parkinson, MD, co-lead investigator of the study, who is also imaging director and medical director of the Intermountain Medical Center Breast Care Center. “We might find those who have breast cancer will have a negative blood test and learn it’s not a good screening tool.”

“We want to approach this with laser-like focus,” he said. “It’s needed to help us diagnose breast cancer. We need to detect it earlier, when it’s curable.”

Breast cancer survival depends largely on finding the disease early, and mammography is the only screening exam that’s been shown to reduce the mortality rate for breast cancer. Since 1991, the death rate from breast cancer is down 38 percent, largely because mammography screening tests lead to early detection.

Wuckert is pleased at the progress she has personally witnessed after watching a cousin die from the disease in the 1970s. “Every person who has had it, we learn more about the disease.” Studies like this one, she says, “fine tune a way for a better diagnosis and the success rate will be better.”

The Beesley Family Foundation is sponsoring this study. 

More information about this study can be found online at: