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Genetic Test Predicts Breast Cancer Recurrence

Test Helps Determine Need for Chemotherapy

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"But our study showed that such clinical characteristics are not particularly accurate compared with recurrence score," Wolmark says. "Now we have an objective test we can use."

Women who have been told they are at low risk of recurrence using traditional measures should not panic, he stresses. "The more time goes by without a recurrence, the lower your risk," he says. "This test is only for the newly diagnosed patient."

Melody Cobleigh, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says she plans to routinely offer the test to her patients once it becomes available.

"We tend to give too much chemotherapy in this country because we can't pick out who really needs it," she says. "Of every 100 women we treat, 85 probably didn't need it in the first place and four will suffer a recurrence despite the treatment. This test has the potential of giving us a very significant piece of information that can help us to avoid unnecessary treatment."

Judy Perotti, who faced the agonizing decision of whether to undergo chemotherapy when she was diagnosed with a new breast cancer about a year ago, says she wishes the test had been available to her.

"All the other measures were all jumbled up and I ended up deciding to have chemotherapy even though I really didn't want to," she says.

Perotti, a breast cancer advocate with the Research Advocacy Network in Arlington Heights, Ill., recommends the test be used in conjunction with traditional markers, not instead of them.

"It's once more piece of information I could have used in making my decision," she says.

Genomic Health, which makes the test, expects it to be available in early 2004. The price has not yet been determined.

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