Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Predicting Breast Cancer Outcome

A Protein May Be the Most Accurate Guide to Breast Cancer Survival

WebMD Health News

Nov. 13, 2002 -- The most accurate way to predict the outcome of breast cancer in an individual may be a simple lab test that measures a tumor's levels of a particular protein.

With this test, say researchers, thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer may be able to avoid unnecessary chemotherapy treatments, while others can be identified for more aggressive treatment even when other tests indicate the cancer hasn't spread.

It all depends to the patient's levels of cyclin E, a protein that helps cells to proliferate, say researchers. High levels of cyclin E in breast cancer tumors correlate to a poor outcome, while low levels are associated with the best rates of survival, according to a study in the Nov. 14 issue of TheNew England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, the researchers analyzed tumors from almost 400 breast cancer patients and compared the levels of cyclin E to known survival factors.

They found that higher levels of cyclin E were associated with a higher death rate during an average five-year follow-up period.

Among 114 patients with early-stage breast cancer, all of the patients that had high levels of the protein (12 patients) died within five years. None of the 102 patients with low levels of cyclin E died of breast cancer during that period.

This same association was seen in more advanced breast cancer patients as well. But for the most advanced cases -- stage IV breast cancer -- cyclin E had no effect on survival.

For all breast cancer patients, survival over time was diminished 13-fold in patients with high levels of cyclin E.

"This is significant because we have now identified a detection method using a biomarker that can accurately identify whether a tumor will have a good prognosis or a poor prognosis," says lead researcher Khandan Keyomarsi, PhD, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "And thus, we can better determine the best treatment for patients.

"In patients who have low levels of cyclin E, we can predict a good prognosis and they may not need to undergo chemotherapy," she tells WebMD. "It's also important because in about one-third of cases where tests indicate negative (cancer-free) lymph nodes, the cancer recurs. So if these women have higher levels of cyclin E, they might warrant more aggressive treatment."

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow