A new test can help predict which patients with breast cancer will benefit from a regimen of chemotherapy and which patients will not. The test, which is now available, is called “OncoPlan” and it measures the levels of two similar proteins in your body. One of them acts as an “oncogene” (meaning it makes a tumor more malignant) and the other is a tumor suppressor. Clearly the latter is better for your health.
Studies presented a recent cancer conference in the U.S. proved that the simple test can show how aggressive a person’s tumor will be and the risk level he/she has of a tumor recurring in the future — particularly tumors in the breast, colon, and gastrointestinal system. New research has added to this knowledge base by asking the question: “Will this breast cancer patient truly benefit from chemotherapy?”
The two proteins mentioned above are key to this equation. They have a very important relationship with one another, what experts call a “push-pull” situation that has critical importance to the development of an aggressive form of cancer. They are two proteins from the same family, yet one of them drives a cancerous cell forward while the other inhibits that very same drive.
If one is higher than the other by a significant enough margin, then a breast cancer patient will be either more resistant to therapy, because the cancer already on the road to spreading, or will be more receptive to the therapy.
In this way, normal cells can prevent runaway growth by cancerous cells. Researchers know that patients low in one type of protein could respond well to chemotherapy and the subsequent killing of tumor cells. Testing this idea, they looked at nearly 2,400 women in British Columbia, Canada who had a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer. Of that number, 717 had received chemotherapy already.
Researchers found that women who had low levels of one protein, and did not have chemotherapy, had very poor outcomes. If they had received chemotherapy, their chances of succumbing to breast cancer fell by at least two-thirds.
Women with high levels of the other protein were more likely to survive the disease, yet appeared to get no benefit from chemotherapy. It is this group of women who don’t need to suffer the side effects of therapy, for it may be of little use anyway and their own body could withstand the cancer’s growth.
This link still needs to be fully explored, but right now these results are “very exciting,” according to the research team. As of now, anybody can take the OncoPlan test and see how aggressive their cancer is. It can help ensure that they receive the most appropriate cancer therapy.