When the diagnosis of cancer comes, there are so many questions about treatment options that arise. Specifically, what treatments are available, and which one will best suit your specific form of cancer? What is considered cancer and what is not? What type of cancer needs further treatment with hormonal or chemotherapy?
In order to get the answer to those questions, a research team at Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam has created a diagnostic study called MammaPrint, which looks at 70 genes to find a signature that will tell your physician whether you have a high or low-risk cancer (risk of recurrence within the first decade after treatment). It uses the activity of these 70 genes to also predict whether you would benefit from chemotherapy. The MammaPrint study helps you and your doctor come up with an individualized treatment plan that will prove to be much more effective.
How it works
You will undergo a biopsy of the tumor. The tissue will then be sent to a lab that will look closer at the gene activity of the 70 targeted breast-cancer genes. They will then conclude the stage of the cancer, as well as the risk recurrence (low risk is less than 10% risk of it coming back within 10 years and high risk is at least 29% risk of coming back within 10 years). The gene activity will determine how the cancer cells are behaving, which is how they can determine the recurrence risk. It takes five years to get the full conclusion, but once the conclusion is final, you and your doctor can choose the right method of treatment.
Having the wrong diagnosis results in suboptimal treatment for breast cancer. As a breast cancer patient, you want a clear and certain answer to the question, “what treatment will work best for me?” There will be enough to deal with without having to worry about whether or not your treatment is effective.
MammaPrint will help you make that decision by providing you with the greatest weapon of all: Knowledge. It will tell you what type of breast cancer you have, whether it’s hormone-receptor-positive (dependent on estrogen or progesterone to grow), or if it’s hormone-receptor negative. Of note, hormone-receptor negative is more receptive to chemotherapy, while hormone-receptor positive generally is not affected at all by chemotherapy. So if you are HRP, then undergoing chemotherapy could take away quality of life without any chance of improvement.
Personalized medicine can be applied after looking at the specific tumor and learning about the properties of the tumor. You will have a treatment plan based on your personal needs, and not based on statistics.
Molecular biologist versus Pathologist
Unfortunately, the pathologist (who looks at high-risk cancer) and the biologist (who looks at low-risk cancer) disagree a staggering one out of three times as to the outcome of cancer studies and tumor markers. This is why it’s so important to be well-informed with accurate information, the right information suited to your personal situation.
This MammaPrint test was developed on Dutch women, so you might be asking, “is it valid for everyone else?” The answer is yes. While we all have different genes, functionality and activity are the same. The test results don’t show any major differences in ethnic groups; however, studies did conclude that Asians tend to have more of the low-risk cancer, while African-American women tend to have more high-risk cancer. The Dutch ratio is 50-50.
For more information, keep any eye out for the book, “How to Turn Scars into Stars,” by cancer survivor, Elma Alorro Dionella, which is due to be released April 2014.