Genetic testing could predict treatment response

In collaboration with the Press Association

Preliminary US research has suggested that measuring the activity of particular combinations of genes in tumour samples could predict which type of chemotherapy will be the most effective.

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina said that the test could provide a way to personalise therapy to individual patients and reduce the side effects of treatment.

During the study, the research team analysed the genetic profile of tumour samples taken from breast and ovarian cancer and leukaemia patients who were undergoing chemotherapy.

Previous work had suggested that the activity of certain gene combinations within tumour cells was linked to whether or not the tumour would respond to particular treatment.

When the team compared the results of their gene analyses with the success or failure of treatment in the patients, they found that the gene profile accurately predicted response to chemotherapy in eight out of ten cases.

The first clinical trial, involving 120 breast cancer patients, will take place next year. Larger trials are planned if this is successful.

"Being able to predict who will respond to a chemotherapy drug and who will not is a hot topic for cancer researchers worldwide," commented Josephine Querido of Cancer Research UK.

"It would allow doctors to identify which patients will benefit most from the treatment.

"The results presented in this study are very encouraging, and we hope approaches like these will soon be available in the clinic so that more patients will receive treatments that are right for them."

The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Read the abstract online