A tool to determine the risk of recurrence of breast cancer in patients who have undergone surgery, may help in doing away with unnecessary chemotherapy, NRC researchers have found.
They have found that for most patients with early stage breast cancer, chemotherapy following surgery is totally unnecessary and therefore does more harm than good.
Side effects of breast cancer chemotherapy range from nausea, vomiting and hair loss to mouth sores, menopause, infertility, numbness and aching of the joints, hands and feet.
The tool is an algorithm that identifies "gene expression signatures" or biomarkers that can predict low risk tumours with 87-100 percent accuracy in different groups of patients.
To conduct their study, Dr. Edwin Wang and his colleagues at the NRC Biotechnology Research Institute in Montreal used published data on gene expression profiles from more than 1000 breast cancer samples.
"Every tumour has a gene expression profile, which indicates how the patient's genes have changed," Wang said.
"We combined this data with information on the patient's outcome such as whether the original tumour spread and how long the person survived - to develop our algorithm," he added.
The NRC team now hopes to see its algorithm applied in a clinical setting.
"We have a provisional patent on the intellectual property and we would like to get a Canadian company to license it and turn it into a kit format," said Dr. Maureen O'Connor of NRC-BRI, who co-authored the study.
The study appeared in a recent issue of Nature Communications.