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Diagnostic test predicts the future behavior of tumors

Posting in Cancer

Mammograms and biopsies often leave plenty of doubt in doctors treating cancer patients.

To help tailor treatment options to individual patients, Genomic Health provides patients with detailed analyses of the genetic makeup of their tumors -- along with how likely they are to respond to chemotherapy, and to recur. Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

The Silicon Valley-based molecular diagnostics company has been providing these tests – called Oncotype DX -- for breast cancer patients since 2004. Now they’re doing similar diagnostic work with colon cancer. They hope to have a test for prostate cancer next year, followed by tests for lung and skin cancers.

About a decade ago, Genomic Health’s founders developed new ways of extracting genetic material from samples of cancerous tumors that research centers and hospitals had in storage -- allowing them to study the genetic makeup of the tumors and to compare it against the outcomes of patients who had been studied for up to three decades.

From this, they developed an algorithm that could examine 21 genes from a breast cancer tumor and make a very precise prediction about its future behavior. Their results were confirmed in clinical trials.

“For many years, we have been overtreating with chemotherapy,” says oncologist Elwyn Cabebe. “Prior to this test, we had to guesstimate what the risks and possible benefits of chemo would be.”

Last year about 66,000 patients took Genomic Health’s diagnostic tests at a cost of about $4,000 each.

[Via Bloomberg Businessweek]

Image: Oncotype DX breast cancer assay

— By on November 29, 2012, 1:20 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure