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Gene Screen May Predict Colon Cancer's Return
Date:5/14/2009

That knowledge could guide important treatment decisions, experts say

THURSDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- The first genomic test aimed at predicting colon cancer recurrence may help individualize treatment for patients, leading to less toxic and more targeted therapy choices, scientists say.

The Oncotype DX test differentiated which patients with stage II colon cancer were more likely to have a recurrence and which were not. According to the research team, those with lower odds of recurrence might be able to forgo sometimes toxic and costly chemotherapy and stick to surgery alone.

The study is to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, which starts later this month in Florida. The U.K. researchers described their findings Thursday in a special ASCO preview news conference.

The new gene test was not able to show whether or not chemotherapy would actually benefit the higher-risk group, the researchers said.

Still, "we think this will be a clinically useful tool when coming to select which patients will receive chemotherapy," said study lead author Dr. David Kerr, a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Oxford.

The test is very similar to the Oncotype DX test that is already available to stratify breast cancer patients by risk, added Dr. Richard L. Schilsky, president of ASCO and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. In fact, the new colon cancer test will likely be commercialized by the same company that markets the breast cancer test, Genomic Health, he predicted. That company funded the new study.

The study authors believe the new test, which is not quite as strong a predictor as the existing breast cancer test, will be available for use in hospitals by 2010.

"One of the major challenges facing us as oncologists is selecting the right patients for the right drugs at the right time. That's what this
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