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Breast cancer: Reducing the risk of unnecessary chemo
Date:11/8/2010

This release is available in French.

A fundamental principle of medicine is: "first, do no harm." However, for doctors who treat breast cancer, this is easier said than done. Every year, almost 22,000 Canadian women are diagnosed with breast cancer their treatment usually involves surgery to remove a tumour and then chemotherapy to reduce the risk of cancer returning. But studies show that for most patients with early stage breast cancer, chemotherapy following surgery is totally unnecessary and therefore does more harm than good.

Identifying whether a patient's cancer is at low or high risk of recurring would help doctors reduce unnecessary treatments for low risk patients. This could have a huge impact on a patient's quality of life and also significantly reduce the cost of health care.

Did you know?

Chemotherapy can be devastating both physically and emotionally. Side effects of breast cancer chemotherapy range from nausea, vomiting and hair loss to mouth sores, menopause, infertility, numbness and aching of the joints, hands and feet.

Currently, most doctors assess a patient's prognosis using their age and "tumour grade," but this approach doesn't work very well. Now, NRC researchers have developed a tool to determine which breast cancer patients have little risk of their disease recurring. The tool an algorithm that identifies "gene expression signatures" or biomarkers that can predict low risk tumours with 87-100 percent accuracy in different groups of patients has the potential to virtually eliminate unnecessary chemotherapy.

To conduct their study, which appeared in a recent issue of Nature Communications, Dr. Edwin Wang and his colleagues at the NRC Biotechnology Research Institute in Montreal (NRC-BRI) used published data on gene expression profiles from more than 1000 breast cancer samples. "Every
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Contact: NRC Media Relations
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
613-991-1431
National Research Council of Canada
Source:Eurekalert

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