Personalizing breast cancer treatment

Some of the newest tools for women with breast cancer are tests that estimate the likelihood of deriving a benefit from chemotherapy. Currently, there are two tests approved for estimating a patient’s risk of recurrence with early-stage breast cancer: Oncotype DX and MammaPrint.

Oncotype DX and MammaPrint are appropriate for women with stage I or II breast cancer that is hormone receptor-positive and will be receiving hormonal therapy. For those who are “on the fence” about embarking on a course of chemotherapy, these tests may provide sufficient information to make the decision clearer and easier. Both tests work by analyzing the genes in tumor tissue removed during surgery.

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The tests look for patterns of abnormal genetic activity to predict how the tumor will behave. Oncotype DX examines the activity of 21 genes to determine chance of recurrence, and MammaPrint looks at 70 different genes.

The National Cancer Institute is using Oncotype DX in a clinical trial called TAILORx to study recently diagnosed patients with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

The TAILORx study is just one example of how research is transforming the way that doctors treat breast cancer—that is, basing their treatment approach on the patient’s tumor. If doctors know in advance that a treatment won’t be of benefit, the patient could be spared unnecessary side effects from the treatment.

This article originally appeared on ONA