New genetic test could help women with breast cancer avoid chemotherapy


More women with breast cancer could be spared chemotherapy if doctors switched to a new genetic test, research shows.

The EndoPredict test can more accurately predict whether a woman's cancer will spread around the body than the standard test used on the NHS.

It can also produce results in just a few days compared to around a fortnight for the current test, Oncotype DX, which has to be posted to the US.

Breast Cancer Patients Linda Hannon (left) and Orlaith Cyran
(Julien Behal/PA)

Both tests provide information about the genetic make-up of a tumour to help predict how cancer might develop over a decade.

This information can be used to inform personalised treatment decisions by identifying which patients would be most likely to benefit from treatment with chemotherapy after surgery, and those who won't need it, thereby avoiding unnecessary side-effects.

Both tests are for women with oestrogen receptor positive, HER2 negative (ER+/HER2-) disease, which accounts for around two-thirds of all breast cancers. More than 33,000 women are diagnosed with ER+/HER2- breast cancer each year in the UK.

Charity walkers take part in the SunWalk breast cancer Walk the Walk
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)

By identifying those at low risk of their disease spreading, women who would see little benefit from chemotherapy could be spared its gruelling side-effects.

Study lead author Dr Richard Buus, from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: "This study showed that a new test is more accurate than the current NHS standard test at detecting women at lowest risk of their breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body in the long-term.

"It could help improve treatment for a large number of women with breast cancer by allowing doctors to better predict which women are least likely to go on to develop secondary cancer - and could therefore be spared from undergoing the chemotherapy often offered early on in treatment to reduce that risk."

A view of forty pink and black silhouettes depicting the female form positioned outside London's Spitalfields Market
(David Parry/PA)

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: "This important study demonstrates the exciting potential of EndoPredict to identify breast cancer patients that will benefit little from chemotherapy. This test could give patients and their doctors invaluable reassurance that they may safely be spared chemotherapy's gruelling side-effects.

"Oncotype DX remains a valuable tool for both clinicians and patients. But we need to see the best and most cost-effective technologies made routinely available on the NHS, and this research suggests EndoPredict could be another step forward.

"Based on this strong evidence, we would encourage the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to consider this technology for routine use on the NHS."