09:54 Friday 13 December 2013

Test could be vital for breast cancer patients

Written bySARAH BOULD

A LEADING breast cancer consultant in Staffordshire is championing a test that identifies whether women would benefit from chemotherapy.

Dr Robert Kirby, consultant breast surgeon at North Staffordshire Hospital, who treats around 450 women a year, said the Oncotype DX test, which he has trialled, would be of great benefit to women in the UK but is not available on the NHS due to costs.

The incidence of breast cancer among women in Staffordshire is 106 per 100,000, many of whom are prescribed chemotherapy. Research shows that only around four in 100 breast cancer patients benefit from this treatment.

In September, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended the test for use in the NHS to help clinicians and their patients to make more informed, individualised treatment decisions based on their individual cancer.

The unique genomic test helps to predict the likelihood that some early stage breast cancer patients will benefit from chemotherapy, sparing those who will derive little or no benefit from the treatment.

Dr Kirby told the Mail: “ It can be used to try and decide which patients might benefit from chemotherapy or avoid it.”

He said that patients with early stage breast cancer don’t need chemotherapy, while those with advanced cancer do. It is those who are in the middle of the scale who would be the most likely to benefit from the test which sees samples of tissue sent to the USA for analysis.

“If you have chemotherapy when you don’t need it then there is rick of damage,’ said Dr Kirby.

“The test is of greatest benefit for those who might be able to avoid chemotherapy.

“The thing about giving chemotherapy is that if someone is alive in 20 years they don’t know if it’s as a result of the chemotherapy.”

Many patients have asked for the test but it could take up to a year to develop a national commissioning policy.

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