New breast cancer prognosis test approved in UK

26 September 2013

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved a gene expression profiling test for breast cancer prognosis for use in England and Wales.
Breast cancer is the single most common form of cancer in the UK. The Oncotype DX examines gene expression profiles from tumour tissue to identify specific signatures (patterns) of expression linked to a poor prognosis – a high risk of tumour recurrence and spread. Women with these high risk tumours should receive chemotherapy as well as surgical removal of the tumour, but women with tumours at much lower risk of spreading are unlikely to need it. Avoiding unnecessary chemotherapy saves costs to the NHS, and saves patients from the significantly detrimental side effects often associated with chemotherapy.
The test is not suitable for use in all breast cancer patients, but has been approved as cost-effective for use in women assessed as being at intermediate risk with oestrogen receptor positive (ER ), lymph node negative (LN-) and human epidermal growth factor receptor two negative (HER2-) subtypes of early breast cancer.
Last year a NICE advisory committee concluded that there was insufficient evidence available to recommend the introduction of any one of three different breast cancer gene expression profiling tests, including Oncotype DX (see previous news).

Breakthrough Breast Cancer senior policy officer Sally Greenbrook praised the decision by NICE but added: "It's also important to make sure that this test is made available to doctors and that systems are in place to ensure that patients are able to benefit from it". 

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