Diagnostic test could end needless chemotherapy

The University of Queensland

Thursday, 15 August, 2019

Diagnostic test could end needless chemotherapy

A diagnostic test developed at The University of Queensland (UQ) could soon result in tailored treatment for women with invasive lobular breast cancer, in some cases relieving patients from the gruelling process of undergoing chemotherapy.

Invasive lobular breast cancer is the second most common type of breast cancer, with 2000 Australian women diagnosed every year. Although patients initially respond well to treatment, some return years later with a terminal spread of the disease.

“It is very hard to tell at diagnosis which patients will do well from those who will not be so lucky, which means chemotherapy may be prescribed [upfront],” said Dr Amy McCart Reed, from the UQ Centre for Clinical Research.

“In this study, we pulled together a set of 194 genes that, when working together, act as a signature to help clarify which patients are likely to have a positive outcome with their breast cancer.

“If they have a low-risk signature score, it means we might relieve them of the burden of chemotherapy.

“If they have a high-risk signature score, we could continue to recommend chemotherapy as the course of treatment.”

Breast cancer survivor Joy Jensen, who underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy following her diagnosis in 2014, said such a diagnostic test would give control back to those who felt helpless about their situation.

“If an oncologist could look at test results and say, ‘we don’t believe you would benefit from chemotherapy’, then it would have been nice to be given this choice,” Jensen said.

“If I could have skipped anything in my treatment which would not have impacted my outcome, it would have been chemotherapy.”

The research has been published in npj Breast Cancer.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/cleomiu

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