New Breast Cancer Test That Could Cut Chemotherapy Rates

British scientists have developed a test that could potentially spare thousands of breast cancer sufferers the ordeal of chemotherapy.

In the UK alone, 48,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, 37,000 of them having the oestrogen positive (ER+) type. The current procedure involves removing the tumour and then determining whether to go ahead with chemotherapy, based on the chances of the cancer returning.

The new IHC4 test developed by the Institute for Cancer Research could predict and analyse the chances of recurrence by assessing the levels of the four proteins of importance for breast cancer, oestrogen, progesterone, HER2 receptors and Ki67, which measures how fast the tumour is growing.

Currently, doctors can determine whether 25,000 ER+ breast cancer sufferers should or shouldn’t have chemotherapy. For the remaining 12,000 cases, doctors tend to advise chemotherapy as precaution when they can’t make a clear decision on how likely it’ll be that the cancer returns.

Therefore, the new inexpensive test, that costs £100 to £200 a time, could potentially spare thousands of women having to go through chemotherapy. The only other alternative to chemotherapy currently available is the Oncotype test, which costs £1,600 a time.

"I think it will help about 8,000 women a year make a much more certain decision about their treatment,” says Professor Mitch Dowsett, from the study.

"It will allow us to say about a third of the 12,000 probably do need chemo and about a third probably don't."