Women's health

New test predicts breast cancer recurrence

New test predicts breast cancer recurrence Could also spare women unnecessary chemotherapy

UK scientists have developed a test which can help identify breast cancer patients at risk of the disease recurring after surgery.

The new test would also spare many women with oestrogen positive (ER) breast cancer unnecessary chemotherapy.

ER positive breast cancer is the most common form of the disease. Each year in the UK around 48,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Of these 37,000 of are ER positive.

Currently there is just one test used to predict whether these women are at high or low risk of breast cancer recurrence, called Oncotype DX, but this is only available in one laboratory in the United States and costs around £2500 per patient.

In contrast, the new IHC4 test, developed by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Queen Mary, University of London, is expected to cost around £200.

The IH4 test measures the levels of four proteins which play an important role in ER positive breast cancer - ER, PR, HER2 and Ki67.

Laboratories in the UK already carry out tests for ER and HER2 proteins, when women are diagnosed with this type of breast cancer. Tests for the other two proteins - PR and Ki67 - can easily be carried out throughout the country using equipment already available in many laboratories.

Taken together, measuring the levels of the four proteins is as effective at predicting high and low risk women as the expensive Oncotype DX test, scientists reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Professor Mitch Dowsett, from the ICR and The Royal Marsden Hospital, said: "This is fantastic news for women who are diagnosed with ER positive breast cancer.

"It is a major step towards more personalised and targeted treatment of breast cancer, which will mean that women can avoid unnecessary chemotherapy and its toxic side effects.

"Oncotype DX is a valuable method of identifying patients whose breast cancer could re-occur but most cancer specialists do no have the money available to use it.

"IHC4 could make this information available to them without adding significantly to NHS costs and in fact could help reduce spending by cutting unnecessary chemotherapy treatment."

This article was published on Thu 20 October 2011

Image © Arto - Fotolia.com

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