Page URL:

Breast cancer recurrence gene test gets NHS go-ahead

9 February 2015
Appeared in BioNews 789

A genetic test to estimate the chance of breast cancer recurrence after surgery is set to become more widely available on the NHS.

From April 2015, hospitals will be able to sign up to an access program enabling them to provide the Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay to eligible breast cancer patients after surgery. The test aims to help decide whether or not to prescribe chemotherapy to breast cancer patients after surgery by trying to better predict the chances of distant recurrence of the cancer.

Although recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in 2013 for use in patients with certain types of early stage breast cancer (reported in BioNews 724), the test has not been widely used so far due to its cost of between £2,000 and £2,500 per patient, says the Daily Mail.

The access programme allows NHS hospitals to provide genetic testing to some patients by implementing the NICE diagnostic guidance, explains the company behind the test, Genomic Health. Its chief operating officer and chief financial officer, Brad Cole, said: 'In the past few years, more than 3,500 women in the UK have used the Oncotype DX test, and we believe the latest agreement will facilitate quick adoption throughout England.'

In the UK around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Once a tumour is surgically removed, a course of chemotherapy and drugs may be prescribed to minimise the chances of recurrence.

However, chemotherapy has a number of unpleasant side effects. Research has shown that fewer than ten percent of patients with early-stage breast cancer actually benefit from chemotherapy, with current methods for making treatment decisions often resulting in over-treatment. This can cause both decreased quality of life for the patient and increased costs for the NHS.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, of the London Breast Institute, told the Daily Mail that up to 25 percent of breast cancer patients will be eligible for the test. Genomic Health states that almost one third of treatment recommendations for early-stage breast cancer patients changed after the using the Oncotype DX test.

The test looks at the expression of 21 genes in breast tissue removed during surgery. It then indicates how likely recurrence will be and if the patient will benefit from chemotherapy, giving patients a score on a scale of 1-100.

This score, along with more traditional methods of assessing the chances of cancer recurrence, can help doctors to decide whether or not chemotherapy will be beneficial to the patient.

Dr Emma Pennery, clinical director from Breast Cancer Care charity, told the Daily Mail the test would be invaluable. She said, 'This test could enable [patients] to avoid the brutal side-effects of chemotherapy without compromising their survival.'

5 October 2015 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
A genetic test that can identify women with early-stage breast cancer who can be spared unnecessary treatment with chemotherapy has been shown to be effective in a clinical study...
1 September 2015 - by Dr Hannah Somers 
Scientists have developed a blood test that can predict several months in advance which breast cancer patients will relapse.
8 June 2015 - by Jenny Sharpe 
Researchers have called for mass screening of women in their 30s to detect cancer-causing mutations...
13 April 2015 - by Dr Hannah Somers 
A new wide-ranging test that looks at multiple sites in the DNA code could help predict a woman's risk of developing breast cancer...
16 March 2015 - by Dr Meghna Kataria 
A new study has uncovered fifteen novel 'hotspots' in the human genome that increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer - bringing the total count of known genetic risk factors to 94...
11 August 2014 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A new study suggests that mutations in a gene called PALB2 are just behind BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations as a leading genetic risk factor for breast cancer...
30 June 2014 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
A simple blood test that can predict the likelihood of developing non-inherited breast cancer could be developed, following research into the epigenetics of the disease...
30 September 2013 - by David O'Rourke 
A new genetic test that can estimate the risk of breast cancer in women returning after surgery has been approved for use in the NHS....
13 May 2013 - by Daryl Ramai 
A genetic test released in the USA claims to be able to score the aggressiveness of prostate cancer before medical intervention, helping men with the condition decide if and when to start receiving treatment....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.