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Genetic Test Shows Promise in Guiding Breast Cancer Care
Date:5/10/2011

respond to this chemotherapy did, in fact, survive three years without a relapse, giving them an 18 percent lower risk of dying compared to those identified as "non-responders" to the treatment.

And, Symmans said, "at three years, breast cancer had not returned in 97 percent of women with ER-positive and 83 percent of women with triple-(ER) negative breast cancer if they were predicted to be treatment-sensitive. If they were predicted to be treatment-insensitive, the rates were 86 percent and 57 percent, respectively."

The study was funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, among others. Several of the authors also hold patents with Nuvera Biosciences, Inc., which was involved in the test.

"This study is not the definitive final word on the subject, but it offers a totally new way of looking at the question of how do we predict whose tumor is really sensitive to chemotherapy, whose tumor is probably resistant to chemo or neither of the above," said Symmans.

One expert called the study just one "baby step" on the path towards more individualized treatments for patients. "I don't know if this is enough to propel people to use this," said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The test, while promising, is "not ready for patients," agreed Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli, professor and chairman of medical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Nor does it predict which therapy will be best, he added.

But depending on further research, the test may one day be valuable in helping women and their doctors make difficult decisions regarding treatment, as opposed to today, when so much is guesswork. "It's important to me to not give to have to give 100 women chemotherapy to save 10 or 15 lives," Shapira explained. "It's important to me to be able to identify the 10 or 15 patients who are going to benefit from chemotherapy."

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