For women with the most common type of breast cancer, a new way to analyze magnetic resonance images (MRI) data appears to reliably distinguish between patients who would need only hormonal treatment and those who also need chemotherapy, researchers from Case Western Reserve University report.
The analysis may provide women diagnosed with estrogen positive-receptor (ER-positive) breast cancer answers far faster than current tests and, due to its expected low cost, open the door to this kind of testing worldwide.
The research is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
"In the United States, nearly 70 percent of all breast cancer patients are diagnosed with ER-positive, but the majority don't need chemotherapy," said Anant Madabhushi, professor, biomedical engineering professor, Case Western Reserve University, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and research leader.
"Until about 15 years ago, doctors had no way of telling aggressive cancer from non-aggressive, so the majority of women got chemotherapy, which can produce very harsh side effects," he said.
Since then, a genomic test for differentiating between aggressive and nonaggressive cancer was developed. The test requires doctors to send a biopsy sample to a company that analyzes it and assigns a risk score that the doctors then use to guide treatment.
"The test is used frequently in the United States, but it destroys tissue, requires shipping and costs about $4,000," said Madabhushi. "The cost puts the test out of reach for people in middle- and low-income countries." [more]