Despite a decline in the number of women dying from breast cancer, the survival rate for women whose breast cancer came back or spread following treatment has changed little. Research conducted at West Virginia University could improve a womans chance of beating the disease.

Until now, there has been limited research to help doctors identify which patients will be disease free five years following diagnosis and which ones will respond to chemotherapy,said Lan Guo, principal researcher of a study at WVU s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.We developed prognostic models that can accurately predict disease-free survival and treatment response in breast cancer patients on a case-by-case basis.

The published study involved tumor samples from 269 breast cancer patients. In addition to considering traditional predictive factors such as tumor size to construct their prognostic models, researchers also considered molecular factors, including the role of specific proteins. Their results were more than 95 percent accurate in predicting individualized breast cancer outcomes.

This has tremendous clinical importance,said Dr. Jame Abraham, director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program at WVU .If we can determine at the moment of diagnosis that a breast cancer patient is at high risk of having the cancer return or spread after treatment, we can better decide which patient would most likely benefit from additional therapy.

In addition, the proposed prediction system can also help physicians determine what combination of chemotherapy might work best for each individual breast cancer patient,Guo added.

The research is published in The Open Clinical Cancer Journal, 2008, 2, 1831. WVU co-authors include Abraham, of the Division of Hematology Oncology in the Department of Medicine; Dan Flynn, of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine; and Vincent Castranova, Xianglin Shi and Yong Qian of the Pathology and Physiology Research Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Other research related to individualized cancer care taking place at WVU Health Sciences includes a group developing protocols using immunohistochemistry assays to verify protein expression in paraffin-embedded tumor samples.

The protein expression of the biomarkers will also be tested using protein assays through collaboration of Dr. Flynn’s lab, NIOSH and the proteomics facilities at the WVU pathology department,Guo said.

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