Monday, January 11, 2010

Breast Cancer Multigene Test is Changing Treatment Decisions by Patients and Doctors

Fewer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy

MAYWOOD, Il. -- A 21-gene test that predicts whether early stage breast cancer patients will benefit from chemotherapy is having a big impact on treatment decisions by patients and doctors alike.

The test caused doctors to change their treatment recommendations in 31.5 percent of cases, while 27 percent of patients changed their treatment decisions. In most such cases, the change by both doctors and patients was to avoid chemotherapy.

The study, led by Loyola University Health System Medical oncologist Dr. Shelly Lo, is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The multigene test, Oncotype DX®, is made by Genomic Health Inc. The test examines 21 genes from a tumor sample to determine how active they are. A test score between 0 and 100 predicts how likely the cancer is to recur. For women with low scores, chemotherapy is not recommended.

More than 120,000 breast cancer patients have undergone the test since it became commercially available in 2004. The test is intended for patients who have a type of breast cancer, called estrogen-receptor-positive, that has not spread to the lymph nodes. About 100,000 such cases are diagnosed each year.

"The trend in oncology is toward personalized medicine," Lo said. "We likely will see more tests similar to this one in the future."

The study included 89 breast cancer patients who received the gene test. They were treated by 17 medical oncologists at Loyola, University of Michigan, University of California at Davis and Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill.

Doctors changed treatment decisions for 28 patients. In 20 of these cases, they changed their decision from hormone therapy plus chemotherapy to hormone therapy alone. Twenty-four patients changed their treatment decisions, including nine who dropped chemotherapy.

"This is the first study to show that results from this test simultaneously impact decisions by physicians as well as patients," Lo said. Lo is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Doctors said the test increased their confidence in their treatment recommendations in 76 percent of cases. And in 97 percent of cases, doctors said they would order the test again.

After receiving test results, patients reported they were significantly less conflicted about their decision and felt significantly less anxiety about their situation.

"This test of patients' own breast cancer provides us with greater certainty of who derives benefit from chemotherapy and who can safely avoid it," said senior author Dr. Kathy Albain, professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Stritch School of Medicine.

The test costs $3,910, and generally is covered by insurance. Researchers said the test might lower overall costs by avoiding the expense of chemotherapy in some patients.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.