Cancer Research UK cautious over breast cancer genetic predictor

In collaboration with the Press Association

Belgian and Dutch researchers have claimed that they have improved a method of predicting how a patient?s breast cancer might develop, by examining which genes are turned off or on in the tumour. The team said that they had identified 70 different genes whose activity could be used to predict the likelihood of survival, or whether a patient?s cancer will come back. The results showed that the initial expectations were more reliable over an average follow-up period of 13.6 years than some of the leading diagnostic software currently in development, said the authors. Several labs around the world are currently studying this method of cancer diagnosis, known as 'expression profiling', in the hope that doctors could one day tailor treatments to individual patient's cancer type. Cancer Research UK warned that the results of the trial required more extensive testing before they could be validated as a diagnostic method, however. "Until this has been done, we cannot rely on these tests," said Dr James Brenton, Cancer Research UK senior clinical research fellow, Cancer Genomics Program. "Whenever this type of gene expression signature is identified, it requires a great deal of research to prove that it can be applied as a general test for women with breast cancer. "However, the potential is there for an accurate tool in the future that will help doctors make the best decisions for their patients." The research team said that they are to submit the model for further study by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer. The study was conducted by the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam and is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.