Gene screening can find genes which prevent cancer cells being destroyed by anti-cancer drugs, and so determine which women are likeliest to gain from a type of breast cancer chemotherapy.
The screening could ultimately make expensive new treatments more cost effective and available on the NHS with a simple test enabling doctors to personally treat patients, said researchers. The development could also lead to predicting which other cancer drugs can help patients.
An international team scanned 829 genes in breast cancer tumour cells and found six which would prevent the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel working properly if missing or faulty.
Lead researcher Dr Charles Swanton, from the Cancer Research UK charity’s London Research Institute, said: “It is now possible to rapidly pinpoint genes which prevent cancer cells from being destroyed by anti-cancer drugs and use these same genes to predict which patients will benefit from specific types of treatment.”
Each year more than 45,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, and around 12,000 die from the disease. About 15% of these patients will be prescribed paclitaxel.
The findings, in The Lancet Oncology medical journal, suggest that half the women prescribed the drug could do without it.
Copyright Press Association 2010