New breast cancer test created and available in Tucson - Tucson News Now

New breast cancer test created and available in Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Women with a certain type of breast cancer now have a new test that can get them into treatment more quickly.

The University of Arizona Medical Center is using the recently FDA-approved test that can cut down the waiting time between diagnosis and treatment.

All tumors are different.

It makes sense to figure out how, and then tailor a specific treatment for each patient.

This new test is one step on the path to totally personalized cancer treatment for one type of breast cancer.

University of Arizona Medical Center molecular pathologist, Dr. Jennifer Thorn, points to a slide of tumor cells on her computer screen.

"This would be a breast cancer tumor with additional copies of the HER2 gene," she says.

Dr. Thorn says that means doctors know what specific drug to use to attack this particular tumor.

About 20 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have this type of tumor.

The newly-approved test is called the Ventana INFORM HER2 Dual ISH DNA Probe Cocktail Assay.

It was developed in Tucson at Ventana Medical Systems.

The test looks for a specific genetic marker in the tumor.

It finds it more quickly than the older test does.

No more waiting a week for results.

Doctors can get the information they need within about three days, and begin treatment.

"The more specific information that you can get about your tumor, the more specific medications that the patient can be put on to better treat that tumor," says Dr. Thorn.

And for the patient, there's another benefit too.

"Eliminate all of the drugs that wouldn't work, thereby getting rid of all the side effects and things that would accompany those types of drugs that you don't need," Dr. Thorn says.

All this is part of a new development in health research and care called personalized medicine.

"Every tumor in each person interacts differently with that person's own genetic makeup. And we hope to be able to find out exactly what your tumor is and then find the drug that will work on that tumor," says Dr. Thorn.

She says it's exciting what doctors are now able to offer patients, and will be able to offer them in the future, now that things are moving faster than ever in personalized medicine.

"Now that the field of genomics is really evolving, we're finally getting the opportunity to figure out why tumors act differently and then develop ways to treat those particular tumors," says Dr. Thorn.  "Hopefully, better responses, maybe even cures. We'll see what comes down the road."

Things are certainly moving quickly.

Dr. Thorn says the Food and Drug Administration recently approved new treatments, right along with the diagnostic tests that go with them, for a certain type of melanoma and a lung cancer.

She says more drug companies are partnering with companies that make the diagnostic tests.

That way they both win government approval at the same time, and can be used in conjunction with each other right away.

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