Genetic testing can help predict if chemo will work
May 10th, 2011
06:23 PM ET

Genetic testing can help predict if chemo will work

Researchers say a new genetic test for breast cancer patients may indicate whether standard chemotherapy treatments will work. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests the key to treating breast cancer may lie in predicting whether a patient will respond to standard therapy based on his or her genetics or the genes in the tumor itself.

The test could lead to more personalized medicine and prevent patients from being treated with drugs that their bodies will not respond to. "With this type of research and genetic analysis available we're getting to the point where we will be able to make better treatment decisions for our patients," says Dr. Ruth O'Regan, a breast cancer specialist at Emory University not affiliated with the study.

Researchers looked at 310 patients with stage two or stage three breast cancer with large tumors that may already have spread to  the lymph nodes. They determined the patients' sensitivity to endocrine therapy, chemoresistance and chemosensitvity and compared it with other genetic predictors of chemotherapy response. From this data researchers say they were able to identify patients with high probability of survival following taxane and anthracycline chemotherapy.

Lead study author Dr. Fraser Symmans says the tests such as these provide an early identification of patients who might benefit from new approaches to treatment. He says other benefits include reducing side effects and health care costs.

Symmans also says the test will help patients who are found to be treatment sensitive - that is, if the chemo makes their tumors shrink -  to be confident that they're getting the correct  treatment in the  current chemo regimen.

For those who are treatment insensitive, meaning their tumors do not respond,  the doctor says the test results do not mean chemotherapy doesn't help them.  He says it indicates that chemotherapy alone is not enough. For patients like this, Symmans suggests it could encourage them to seek out clinical trials sooner.  "You'd have the advantage that if those drugs work, these are the people where it's going to make a difference."

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. thes33k3r

    Science for the win.

    May 10, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. freek

    GOD Bless You Doctors and Scientist!

    May 10, 2011 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Guigsy

    the only problem with this is Chemo itself! most patients die from Chemo before cancer. We need better solutions like Gerson Therapy!!!

    May 11, 2011 at 01:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CC

      Where did you get your statistics to make a statement that chemo more often kills patients? I have had chemo and it destroyed the cancer. I have seen and spoken with others who have had chemo and survived. There many chemo drugs for various cancers and degrees of cancer, and today there are people alive and well due to chemo treatments. It may not have been the chemo drugs that killed people, but a combination of the disease attacking their bodies and then a continual weakening due to chemo causing them to die. You do not know! To make such a statement without facts is thoughtless and wreckless and might stop someone who needs chemo therapy to decide against it. If you are facing the possibility of death due to this ugly disease you want to consider all your options and need all the accurate information you can get, rather than erroneous information passed around via rumors. Be careful what you say.

      May 11, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      u r absolutely right chemo only cures maybe 25% of patients at the most real numbers are probably 12%. 90% of Dr.'s would not recommend chemo for their own direct family so what does that tell u? Gerson therapy is the truth

      May 11, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  4. melissa

    What are your qualifications for you to state that most patients die from chemo before cancer? I am 34, and would choose to fight cancer any way that I could.

    May 11, 2011 at 06:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. nina786

    waw nice.....:)


    May 11, 2011 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Survivors Spouse

    I have watched chemo kill and watched chemo cure..........who would want to take the chance and not do everything possible. My husband is a survivor of Stage 3 lung cancer and chemo/radiation/surgery worked. Wish they would research more and finalize the blood test that would show after treatment of cancer, if there were any more bad cells floating around then that would prevent having to go through precautionary chemo.

    May 11, 2011 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. UKSci

    This is a great step in the right direction. Personalized medicine tools will help tailor therapies for patients and reduce unecessary suffering in people who are non-responders. Instead of trying 3 chemotherapies to find out what works, we can hope that patients will be put on the right therapy early on – reduces suffering and hopefully provides better outcomes. With all due respect, alternative therapies for cancer should be approached with caution and should never be used instead of chemotherapy. Scientists all over the world are trying to come up with more targeted therapies to reduce side effects, but at the end of the day, you need to kill the cancer cells. Good nutrition, well-being, etc. is extremely important during cancer treatment, but should not replace therapy.

    May 11, 2011 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. redplanet

    Oncologists know chemo is a crap shoot. That's why many don't use it. I would NEVER use it. Low dose naltrexone is curing terminal cancer patients. Go google it. (It's an Rx that normalizes the immune system – make sure you use the low dose, not the high dose for other problems.)

    June 2, 2011 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Augustine Gaumond

    Though chemotherapy is an effective way to treat many types of cancer, chemotherapy treatment also carries a risk of side effects. Some chemotherapy side effects are mild and treatable, while others can cause serious complications. ;:^^

    Our very own website http://healthwellnesslab.com

    June 15, 2013 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply

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