Genetic Tumor Testing Could Lead To Better Breast Cancer Treatment

redOrbit staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Experts at the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) have started using a new DNA sequencing technique they say will help devise individualized, more effective methods of treating breast cancer.

According to oncologists at the BCM Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, the methods used to treat a patient’s cancer are dependent upon several factors, including the size of the tumor, its biological state, the stage the illness is currently in, and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body.

Now, they have developed a way to take what they call a “detailed genetic snapshot” of the patient’s tumor, which will help them better understand the specific characteristics of that tumor and help create a unique course of treatment for that patient, the school announced in an October 17 statement.

“It is important to distinguish between tumor-specific changes that we look for in tumor tissue and heritable mutations, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that are associated with breast and ovarian cancers,” Dr. Mothaffar Rimawi, medical director of the Smith Breast Center, said.

“Testing is available to look specifically for those mutations, which greatly increase a woman’s chance of developing these cancers and may require a more aggressive approach to prevention,” he added. “We are able to take tissue from a patient’s tumor and send it to the Cancer Genetics Lab and within two weeks, we receive a comprehensive genetic analysis of that tumor.”

Doctors have just recently started using the tumor genomic sequencing method in clinical environments, Rimawi said, but it has already helped them consider using alternative, and possibly more effective, methods for treating breast cancer.

“There is a good chance that the testing will identify what we call an ℠actionable mutation,’ meaning something that we think is driving the tumor and that we currently have an approved (by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) drug that we know works against it,” he said. “In situations where the cancer has spread or is resistant to treatment, this resource provides us with another opportunity to attack the cancer that we would not have had.”

He said the testing has already had an impact on the treatment methods of a “considerable” number of patients, and in most cases, the genetic sequencing techniques are covered by health insurance.

According to Dayton Daily News staff writer Peggy O’Farrell, the American Cancer Society said an estimated 226,000-plus women in the U.S. would be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer this year. From 1977 to 2007, advances in the treatment of the disease helped five-year survival rates increase from 75% to 90%, she added.

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