ALLENTOWN, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Years ago, treatment for breast cancer used to be "one-size-fits-all": surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. New research shows that doctors are now able to better diagnose breast cancer down to the subtype of the disease, using specialized molecular testing. This new approach means life-saving individualized therapy for some patients.
Becky Kovatch was 44 and a mother of two when she felt a lump in her breast during a self-exam.
Kovatch had a biopsy. Doctors determined she had stage two aggressive breast cancer.
Mark Gittleman, MD, Director of Breast Services at Coordinated Health Network in Allentown, PA says in recent years, doctors have relied on standard pathology tests to plan treatment before surgery. He says those tests aren't foolproof.
"Using those traditional tumor markers doesn't always tell us how that tumor is living and how it's multiplying," says Dr. Gittleman.
Dr. Gittleman is testing a new diagnostic tool for breast cancer. The "BluePrint" test is designed to identify the specific type of cancer down to the molecule. Using biopsy tissue, the test analyzes 80 genes.
In a study of 426 patients who had their cancer subtype identified by traditional lab tests, 22 percent had their tumors reclassified after "BluePrint" testing.
Dr. Gittleman said, "When the patients were reassigned based on molecular subtyping, there was a much better correlation of response to the chemotherapy if they were in the high risk group."
Kovatch says, "With the chemotherapy, it shrunk the tumor." She is now cancer-free and can concentrate on her role as a basketball mom and family cheerleader.
Because the procedure is performed on tissue that has already been removed during an initial biopsy, the "BluePrint", and a companion test, the "MammaPrint", do not require an extra procedure. "MammaPrint" is covered by Medicare and other insurance. Coverage has been expanding for "BluePrint".