PORTLAND, Maine ( NEWS CENTER) — Estrogen-negative breast cancer is difficult to detect, aggressive and hard to treat. There are a couple of blood tests for this type of cancer currently on the market, but they aren't very effective and primarily detect only advanced stages.

But an assistant professor at the University of New England's College of Pharmacy has discovered a marker that could lead to a simple blood test to detect this type of cancer at its earliest stages. And that would save lives.

Estrogen-negative breast cancer is very aggressive and it occurs two to three times more in African-Americans; and it occurs earlier in their lives, in their 20s.

But what if there was a way to detect it even before a tumor formed?

Assistant professor Dr. Srinidi Mohan found one — a marker in the blood that is specific to this type of cancer.

Dr. Gayle Brazeau, dean of UNE's College of Pharmacy, said, "We can start to screen them when they're younger. Most mammograms start at age 40. We can start to screen earlier and then we can start to monitor the effectiveness of therapy."

Scientists in the lab could use the marker to test new therapies.

The patent on Dr. Mohan's discovery and FDA approval are in the works. That takes time. But UNE and Dr. Mohan are hoping that sometime in the next three years or so, a simple blood test, done in your doctor's office, will be all that is needed to find this aggressive kind of cancer.