Breast cancer patients can discover the likelihood of their disease returning in the next 10 years, thanks to a genetic test being offered by scientists in Surrey.
The investigation offered by clinical scientists at Royal Surrey County Hospital allows for the examination of the individual genetic make-up of breast tumours to determine the probability of disease recurrence.
They are measuring the levels of certain genetic material present in the tumour which may influence a patient’s chances of survival and make relapse more likely.
Royal Surrey’s Molecular Diagnostic Department is the only site in the UK offering this test to NHS patients.
It helps doctors to identify patients with more aggressive cancer which will benefit from treatment with chemotherapy and conversely, can helps safely avoid unnecessary treatment in less aggressive disease.
Consultant Clinical Scientist Dr Nadine Collins, said: “If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer and they have their tumour surgically removed the standard procedure would involve looking at histological parameters such as the size of the tumour and whether the cancer has spread to help decide whether chemotherapy is given.
“Now we are taking the tumour and interrogating its molecular signature to see which genes are switched on and which genes are switched off.
“All of this data is put into a very clever algorithm along with the histological information and this determines whether a patient is more or less likely to have a relapse in later life.
The patient’s oncologist can use this information to help decide whether they recommend chemotherapy treatment or not.
In some instances patients, who traditionally may have not received chemotherapy due to the size of their tumour and because it has not spread, have been reclassified to those who may potentially benefit from treatment.
The testing, which involves pathologists and clinical scientists, started at Royal Surrey just two months ago and so far around 40 patients, who meet the criteria, have benefitted from this service.
“From a patient perspective it is really important to know what the chances are of their cancer recurring,” said Dr Collins.
“From the genetic make-up of their tumour we are able to tell them whether there is a low, intermediate or high risk of their cancer returning in the next 10 years and put figure on the percentage likelihood of that happening.
“This can help them make an informed decision about if they want chemotherapy to maximise their chances of survival.”
Breast Surgeon Farrokh Pakzad, said: “Profiling breast cancer on a genetic level has been a major paradigm shift in providing personalised breast cancer treatment.
“Previously we had to send tumour specimen to centres abroad for such tests to be carried out but now with the introduction of this platform in house at Royal Surrey, we have state of the art technology at our finger tips.
“We are very fortunate to be the only site in the UK offering this test to NHS patients.
“I am humbled to work alongside such highly specialised clinical scientists and world renowned pathologists who are always pushing the boundaries and looking for ways to improve the lives of patients we serve.”
To find out more about the vital role of pathologists in patient diagnosis, research and improving patient outcomes the Trust is holding a free health information event.
It takes place at the Holiday Inn Guildford, Egerton Road, GU2 7XZ on Tuesday, 22 October from 6pm to 8pm.
To book a place, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.