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Gene Test Changes Treatment Decisions for Many Women

Gene Test Changes Treatment Decisions for Many WomenMore than half of all breast cancers diagnosed are estrogen receptor-positive with clear lymph nodes. These tumors are treated with lumpectomy or mastectomy, followed by hormonal therapies that block or lower estrogen that fuels their growth. In many cases, chemotherapy is also recommended to reduce the risk of recurrence or spread beyond the breast. While all women who have chemotherapy are exposed to its toxic side effects, it benefits only a portion of women with these early-stage cancers.

Oncotype DX is a diagnostic test that can help individualize treatment by determining which early-stage, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer tumors are most likely to recur and whether women would benefit from chemotherapy. Using a sample of the patient's tumor tissue after lumpectomy or mastectomy, the test evaluates the activity of 21 genes to generate a Recurrence Score that predicts how beneficial chemotherapy is likely to be and whether the cancer is likely to recur. Both the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend the Oncotype DX test to predict whether patients will benefit from chemotherapy.

When researchers collected information from 89 patients treated by 17 medical oncologists to determine how the Recurrence Score influences oncologist and patient treatment decisions, they found that:

  • 31.5% of treatment recommendations were changed by oncologists, usually from chemotherapy and hormonal therapy to hormonal therapy alone.
  • In 76% of cases, oncologists were confident in their original treatment plan.
  • 27% of patients changed their treatment decision.
  • Patient anxiety was lower.

Many insurance carriers, including Medicare, cover the Oncotype DX test. If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, the test may help you and your doctor make informed decisions about chemotherapy.


Learn more about Oncotype DX.

March 26, 2010