This test could help thousands of cancer patients avoid chemotherapy

For patients facing a diagnosis of early stage breast cancer, the traditional course of treatment is typically surgery, followed by an often difficult course of chemotherapy to try to make sure the cancer doesn’t recur.

But, a new study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that about 46% of women who were at high risk of breast cancer recurrence after surgery might not actually need chemotherapy — which often comes with debilitating side effects like profound fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and a weakened immune system.

This was the result of a five-year-long clinical trial of about 6,700 women who had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. It was run by Agendia, a company that makes a diagnostics test called “MammaPrint” that screens breast cancer tumors for the activity in 70 genes. The results of the test are designed to give cancer doctors an idea of whether someone is at a low or high genetic risk for recurrence.

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