Take an ordinary woman - how do you predict with good odds the liklihood of her getting breast cancer? According to a new California study, such a new test exists and it seems to work better than the current predictor tools doctors have been using.
The test involves combining dozens of genes and personal factors (like age, childbearing history) in women who do not have a strong history for the disease. Researchers do want to investigate this new test further (as they typically do with all new tests) before recommending its use to a wider audience. Especially since we currently do not have an agency that specifically evaluates test efficacy like, for example Consumer Reports does when it comes to product claims. And there are too many tests marketed without sufficient professional evaluation.
Clearly for those women who do have a connection to breast cancer or known risk factors - they will turn to mammograms and MRI and ultrasound screening on a recommended schedule. For women who would not routinely have these screening options (before age 40) we do need other detection tools. So this new test, OncoVue, that costs $297, looks for 22 single-letter variations in 19 genes that have been linked with breast cancer is being offered to doctors as a testing tool and not directly to consumers to avoid inappropriate abuse. Women first fill out a full questionnaire and then use a mouthwash that releases cheek cells that are spit into a test tube and then analyzed. Along with the results, the Gail assessment model for breast cancer risk is used in a computer model to get risk result.
When tested against other testing modalities, OncoVue was 2 1/2 times better at separating out high and very low risk women (more so than the Gail model on its own). I'm sure there will be much more to come on this test, which now joins 4 other tests that range in price from $399 - $3000. They are: 23andMe Inc., deCode Genetics, Inc., Navigenics Inc. genome test, Myriad Genetics BRCA gene tests.
And lest we forget the men, apparently if you have advanced stage prostate cancer - then choosing radiation and hormone-blocking drugs will help to cut your risk of dying from this late stage disease. The new research shows that men with prostate cancer very much benefit from aggressive therapy. So it is not enough to put men with this stage of disease on just hormones - in order to get dramatic increase in survival from the disease you have to add radiation. This new research appeared in the medical journal Lancet this past week.
One caveat - the radiation treatment being added did cause higher complaint rates of fatigue, insomnia and sexual side effects in test subjects at the 5 year post treatment mark.
Published On: December 19, 2008