Gene test aid to cancer treatment

Gene-screening has been used to identify women most likely to benefit from one type of breast cancer chemotherapy. Scientists have developed a gene test which predicts how well chemotherapy will work in cancer patients.  The technique could lead to a simple test enabling doctors to administer personalised treatment, say researchers.  The international team of scientists scanned 829 genes in breast cancer tumour cells.  They selected out six which if missing or faulty would prevent the chemotherapy agent paclitaxel working properly.  A patient study then showed how the genes could reveal in advance which women were likely to respond best to the drug.

The international project, including researchers from Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, opens the way for breast cancer treatment to be targeted to those who will benefit the most. It is hoped the approach, reported in The Lancet Oncology, can be replicated for other cancers and treatments.  In future the same method may offer a way of predicting which patients will respond to other cancer drugs.  This in turn could make expensive new treatments more cost effective and available on the NHS, say researchers.

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