The first and only prognostic test for breast cancer is now available at Augusta University.

The Prosigna Breast Cancer Prognostic Gene Signature Assay looks at the genetic expression of breast cancer cells in order to assess 10-year recurrence risk. Physicians and patients can use the test to assist in the selection of breast cancer treatments in postmenopausal women with earlier state, hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Augusta University is one of eight academic institutions using the test.

“Improved screening means we are finding more breast cancer at an earlier state and we end up with this conundrum: Do we give these patients chemotherapy or not,” says Ravindra Kolhe, MD, breast pathologist and director of the Georgia Esoteric & Molecular Labs LLC in the MCG Department of Pathology, in a media release from Augusta University.

“This is a national discussion. Based on microscopic examination alone, it is difficult to clearly tell clinicians which patients need chemotherapy. The new test can better stratify their low-risk versus high-risk status, Kolhe adds.

Postsurgery, pathologists measure the size of the tumor and look at its cells under the microscope. Aggressive tumor cells appear to have a “tumbleweed” shape, and less-aggressive cells look more like healthy breast cells. The presence of aggressive genes typically signals the possibility of a recurrence, according to Kolhe in the release.

When determining next-step treatments, doctors also consider age and other existing medical conditions. Using the Prosigna Breast Cancer Prognostic Gene Signature Assay, doctors hope to avoid unnecessary chemotherapy treatment.

“Chemotherapy is good for preventing recurrence, but it can have extreme side effects, Kolhe notes in the releae. “We want to make sure that patients who don’t need this treatment don’t get it, and of course, those that do need it do.”

[Source: Augusta University]