New diagnostic tool brings effective treatment closer to cancer patients

Significant progress towards identifying the genetic make-up of individual tumours, hence allowing treatment choices to be made based on personalised information, was announced at the 4th European Breast Cancer Conference today. Dr. Alane Koki, Chief Scientific Officer of Ipsogen, a French biotechnology company, told a news briefing that, subject to the successful conclusion of ongoing validation studies, the Breast Cancer ProfileChipTM (BCPC) should be available for use in pathology laboratories by Summer 2004.

One of the biggest obstacles to effective breast cancer treatment and management is the amount of genetic variability between patients. The BCPC uses microarray technology1 to look at the individual molecular characteristics of each patient’s tumour. “Understanding differences in gene expression can help both patients and clinicians to decide what treatment would be most effective and appropriate with a personalised approach”, said Dr. Koki.

Looking at the ‘genetic signature’ of a tumour can provide crucial information to contribute to the choice of first-line treatment. It can also avoid over-treatment or prolonged treatment with ineffective drugs and the associated side effects. The use of microarrays will be able to predict relapse or metastatic disease in patients treated by the current standard of care, therefore sparing selected patients from chemotherapy or closer monitoring and/or dose intensification in patients at high risk. The information provided by this new tool should lead to better management of breast cancer, improve the quality of patient life, as well as reduce the costs of treatment to health services.

“To our knowledge, the BCPC will be the first microarray diagnostic tool available to local pathology laboratories, thus bringing the technology closer to the patient”, said Dr. Koki. Although a few similar diagnostic methods are already available, to date they have involved sending samples to a centre rather than keeping the technology close to the patient and her doctor.

“The BCPC will simultaneously measure expression of more than 900 important genes to augment conventional methods to clinically assess breast cancer. We are optimistic that it will provide useful information to deliver a more personalized approach to patient care by providing both patients and physicians reliable information to make informed, intelligent treatment decisions”, said Dr. Koki.

Prospective clinical trials are also planned to carefully validate and demonstrate ways in which the BCPC can be used to optimize the management of breast cancer.
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1. Microarrays allow scientists to analyse the expression of many genes at the same time. Microarray technology is used to explore the underlying genetic causes of many human diseases, including cancer.

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