A revolutionary new study led by a New Zealand scientist will help doctors tailor cancer treatment for each patient, potentially saving thousands of lives.
The international research, led by Associate Professor Dong-Xu Liu of AUT University, was published in the prestigious British Journal of Cancer on Friday.
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The research explains that identifying a specific cancer-related protein named 'SHON' (secreted hominoid specific oncogene) has been significantly associated with breast cancer's response to treatment. It can indicate whether a patient would respond better to hormone (endocrine) therapy or chemotherapy, including predicting a patient's response to chemotherapy before surgical removal of the tumour.
Dr Liu says the study has the potential to change the current clinical practice of breast cancer management around the world.
"Breast cancer is curable if treated in a timely fashion and with the correct therapy. We might have found a way to improve the efficacy of endocrine therapy, the most widely- used breast cancer treatment for two-thirds of breast cancer patients," he says.
"We can now predict those who will not respond to the therapy and they may now receive alternative treatment improving their chance of survival from breast cancer and allowing them to lead a quality life after cancer."
Annually there are 2.1 million new cases of female breast cancer around the world, with around 626,000 women still dying from the disease each year. Research from the Breast Cancer Foundation last year showed Kiwi women are dying twice as fast of breast cancer compared with women in other countries.
"Biomarkers and tests that predict with a high degree of accuracy how well a patient will respond to breast cancer treatment will play a huge role in reducing deaths," says Evangelia Henderson, CEO of the Breast Cancer Foundation.
"We look forward to seeing what happens next as a result of Dr Liu's excellent study."