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New offer of the Breast Center at TU Munich’s Klinikum rechts der Isar:

Genetic testing may save breast cancer patients unnecessary chemotherapy

Klinikum rechts der Isar Photo: Carmen Borhardt / MRI

11.11.2011, News

The Interdisciplinary Breast Center at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen’s Klinikum rechts der Isar is now offering its patients a new genetic test: it divides patients having hormone-sensitive breast cancer into high and low risk groups. Low risk means that the probability of metastasis within ten years is less than ten percent. Because of their very good prognoses, these patients can forego chemotherapy.

In addition to conventional histopathological analysis, the new so-called EndoPredict test examines removed tissue using genetic engineering methods. It provides a forecast of which patients have a high risk for metastasis and would thus benefit from chemotherapy and which patients can do without. "Chemotherapy for cancer patients is not only a painful and debilitating procedure. In the majority of cases it is even useless. This test can help select the appropirate therapy," says Professor Marion Kiechle, director of the Interdisciplinary Breast Center.

Patients for whom the test detects a low risk can be treated with an anti-hormonal treatment. Here, the physicians prescribe so-called aromatase inhibitors, which slow down the formation of the female sex hormone estrogen. The withdrawal of estrogen slows down the growth of hormone-dependent cancer cells. Many women will benefit from this option to go without chemotherapy. Prof. Kiechle assumes that approximately 60 percent of all patients at the Breast Center belong to the low-risk group.

The scientists at the Klinikum rechts der Isar have now started a study to precisely measure the advantages of the new method. Since early November tissue samples of all newly operated patients with hormone-sensitive breast cancer have been tested using the new method. A polymerase chain reaction provides a so-called mRNA-profile. Using this cellular "blueprint" the doctors can deduce a reliable prognosis for the patient.

"The test results are available within 24 hours. Ring tests have proved a very high reliability and reproducibility of the tests," says Prof. Heinz Hoefler, Director of the Institute of Pathology at the Klinikum rechts der Isar.

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