A drop of blood could hold the key to more effective cancer treatment, according to researchers at BC Cancer.

It’s a belief at the centre of a new two-year study involving breast cancer patients funded by a $1.2-million donation from the Conconi Family Foundation.

The study will analyze blood samples donated by breast cancer patients in the province. Researchers say a person’s blood can contain tiny DNA fragments from their cancer, which can help guide treatment and select the right drugs. It’s known as circulating tumour DNA, or ctDNA.

"The ability to do this has the potential to personalize treatment for the patient," said medical oncologist Dr. Stephen Chia, who chairs BC Cancer’s breast cancer tumour group.

He noted there isn’t currently a sensitive blood test that can detect cancer, and the development of such a test could allow doctors to understand more about a tumour, without having to conduct a biopsy.

"We believe this will have critical implications for other cancers, such as lung, colon, ovary, pancreatic and bladder," he said.

In advanced cases, Chia says a test could also detect mutations to determine if the patient needs to be treated differently.

The Conconi Family Foundation’s executive director, Sanja Simic, was diagnosed with breast cancer almost three years ago at 30 and underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

"I spent a full year in treatment and another year recovering from it," Simic said. "If you put yourself into the patient’s shoes and imagine the journey, it’s kind of brutal."

Simic said this research could lead to screening and monitoring options that are "easier on you, physically and emotionally," while also resulting in more targeted treatment.

"This has the potential of guiding us in the right direction," she said.

Simic's cancer is now in remission.

According to Chia, about 3,100 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in B.C.