Mary might enjoy life without chemo’s harsh lasting effects; Diane might be alive.
Today, doctors have only a few biological “signposts” to help them make cancer treatment decisions. Is the cancer invasive? Is it hormone-receptive? Is it HER2-neu positive?
Five years from now, the decision tree may have more branches. If the cancer is hormone-receptive, will it respond better to Arimidex, or to tamoxifen? If it has XYZ genetic footprint and chemo is indicated, will Adriamycin be effective? How about Taxol?
Not only might doctors be able to prescribe more specific, effective treatments; they also might avoid those that show little chance of working.
While today’s Oncotype-DX test is a fairly effective predictor of chemo’s effectiveness, it’s still generalized. In future, your doctor may be able to look at your personal cancer, and determine for sure not only that chemo will be effective, but that a particular combination of drugs will be best.
Or, even better, s/he’ll be able to see that your cancer will respond very well to hormone therapy; chemo would be overkill, and do nothing but make you miserable.
It’s all in the details, right? And it’s details like these that could introduce a brave new world of breast cancer treatment.
Sifferlin, A. (2012, April 19). Breast cancer: Not one disease but 10, researchers say. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/04/19/breast-cancer-not-one-disease-but-10-researchers-say/
Branswell, H. (2012, April 19). Study extends breast cancer subtypes from 4 to 10. Retrieved from http://www.globaltvedmonton.com/health/study+extends+breast+cancer+subtypes+from+4+to+10/6442624261/story.html
Curtis, C. E. et. al. (2012, April 18). The genomic and transcriptomic architecture of 2,000 breast tumours reveals novel subgroups. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10983.html