Oncotype DX is a gene test that can help clinicians provide their patients with the best treatment options for breast cancer in early stages by assessing the risk of cancer to recur and tumor to spread after surgery.
Past research has also found that the gene test could be used as a guide when having to choose between chemo and other treatments, but researchers were worried that the test may be inaccurate and risky to some patients.
Nevertheless, the latest study validates those findings. Patients and doctors alike can look at the score of the test to see whether a genetic signature signals a high risk of cancer relapse or not.
In the trial, less than 1 percent of women who used the gene test to skip chemo saw their breast cancer recur five years later. And 1.3 percent saw a relapse in cancer but in other parts of the body.
“We knew these patients were going to do well, but we didn’t dream they would do this well,”
noted Joseph Sparano, senior researcher involved in the study and cancer expert at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
The team plans to detail the study’s findings Sept. 29 at an annual meeting of cancer experts in Europe and publish them online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Oncotype DX maps 21 different genes in the cancerous tissue. So far, 500,000 million women used the test since its launch, and 175,000 patients switched to other treatment options following the test.
Although its price is $4,200, most insurers cover it. The recent study was necessary to confirm that the test is accurate when it assesses the risk of cancer relapse.
During the study, more than 10,000 breast cancer patients were screened. In the U.S., 231,000 women learn that they have a form of breast cancer every year. After diagnosis and surgery to remove the tumor, doctors usually recommend a mix between chemotherapy and hormone therapies to prevent cancer relapse and tumor growth.
This standard treatment has lowered death rates among breast cancer patients by more than 33 percent since the 1980s. But chemotherapy is often linked with serious side-effects that can greatly affect patients’ quality of life. Additionally, only five percent of patients lived longer due to chemotherapy alone.
The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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