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Researchers: Gene Test Could Help Breast Cancer Treatment

  • Jennifer Glasse

A new technique that links genes to a patient's response to chemotherapy for breast cancer could help doctors find more effective cancer treatments in the future. Our correspondent spoke to the British doctor who is leading the research.

The research is collaboration between scientists in Belgium, Denmark, the United States and Great Britain. They have identified six genes that impact whether a common form of chemotherapy, called paclitaxel is effective against breast cancer. Doctor Charles Swanton of the London Research Institute led the study.

"Potentially we have the opportunity now to I hope in the future to develop new ways of predicting which patients will specifically benefit from defined drugs, to better target the right drugs to the patients most likely to benefit," said Dr. Swanton. "But also, in the future we hope to identify new drugs that patients who have cancers that are resistant to conventional therapy, to try to identify new drugs that these specific patients may benefit from using tool like this."

Dr. Swanton says the research is in its early stages and that it will be years before it could be used in a normal medical setting. Still, he says, it has a lot of potential.

"It's a first small step in a much bigger scientific endeavor," he said.

By eliminating treatments that won't work for a patient, it could make it easier to determine which medicines will work. Swanton says this technique may also be effective or other types of cancers where the same genes have been spotted.

"That's the way we hope medicine is heading where each patient is treated differently, based on the expression of genes within the tumor or indeed the expression or sequence of specific genes within the patient," said Charles Swanton.

He says while this is a breakthrough, there is no guarantee of success. Years of research and clinical trials are needed.