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New genetic screening test could save breast cancer patients from undergoing unnecessary chemotherapy

Posted: 25/08/2016

Tens of thousands of breast cancer patients could be saved from undergoing gruelling chemotherapy with a new test which shows whether drugs will be effective, reports The Daily Telegraph. Called MammaPrint, the test screens for 70 genetic variants that increase the risk of cancer returning and can predict which patients could forgo chemotherapy on the basis that they would not benefit from the treatment.

Although chemotherapy is effective at treating cancer cells, it also damages healthy cells and its side effects include nausea, hair loss, headaches, ulcers, chest pains and breathing problems for some women. Many women with early stage breast cancer get no benefit from chemotherapy after having surgery and radiotherapy but some still receive treatment to be on the safe side. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.

Lucie Prothero, who specialises in cancer cases within the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “It is exciting to read of this new test which could lead to more effective treatment for breast cancer patients. It is hoped that this will enable clinicians and their patients, who are diagnosed at an early stage, to make informed decisions about their treatment.

“While chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment is normally essential for those patients whose cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, the new test will be welcome news for patients diagnosed at an early stage with a low risk cancer as they may be spared the ordeal of such treatment. Further research will need to be carried out to ensure that any changes to the management of early stage cancer patients with adjuvant chemotherapy does not compromise patient safety and the prospects of cure.”

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