Prenatal test can detect occult malignancy in expecting moms

According to a recently published study, a prenatal blood test done for finding genetic flaws in the unborn baby in some cases can also reveal whether the expecting mom has cancer. This unexpected finding came out of a study that involved eight expecting women who initially got abnormal results from the above mentioned fetal test. However, subsequent assessment of each of the above-mentioned women revealed that their babies were normal.

The researchers involved in the study said that after reanalyzing DNA of the eight mothers, it was found that the anomalies in the results of the tests were due to cancer.

When speaking about the results offered by the study, Dr. Diana Bianchi of Tufts Medical Center, Boston, said that when she and her colleagues first saw the test results, they didn’t know that the results could indicate presence of cancer. She added that she has 25 years of experience in this field, and even then she never thought it’s possible to come across such findings.

Dr. Bianchi, who is the executive director of Tufts Medical Center’s Mother Infant Research Institute, happens to be the lead author of this study. The study was recently published online by the widely read Journal of the American Medical Association.

It’s a widely accepted fact that noninvasive tests are usually highly accurate. However, Dr. Bianchi feels that these new findings highlight the importance of having all positive results confirmed by chorionic and amniocentesis villus sampling diagnostic tests before deciding whether to start planning for a baby born with developmental disabilities or to terminate the pregnancy.

She said on most occasions, results do confirm the facts put forward by the screening test, but added that it’s quite possible that the initial results have no link with the developing fetus.

Such diagnostic tests are recommended just for expecting women believed to be at high risk of bearing fetuses with one or more chromosomal abnormalities. However, patients and clinicians have been adopting them pretty rapidly. According to numbers put up by Dr. Bianchi, the tests were launched onto the market in 2011 and since then, they have been done over 2 million times.

This new study was funded by the test’s leading marketers Sequenom Inc. and Illumina Inc., both of which are based in San Diego.