A study lead by Dong-Xu Liu, an Associate Professor at AUT University, has found a cancer-related protein can be used to predict whether a breast cancer patient will benefit from hormone therapy or chemotherapy.
The research is believed to have the potential to save lives. In New Zealand alone, around 3000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Those diagnosed are often encouraged to participate in chemo- or hormone therapy, two of the most common forms of cancer treatment. Unfortunately, treatment success rates depend on the individual patient. Where hormone therapy might work better for some, chemotherapy has been proven to work better for others. Liu’s research makes it easier for doctors to work out which method will have the best results for the patient. In addition, Liu’s research will also allow doctors to assess whether the side-effects of the therapies may outweigh any benefit gained from them, in which cause the patient may be given a completely different treatment regime.
“Breast cancer affects one in nine New Zealand women in their lifetime and accounts for almost half of the cancers in NZ women,” he told NZ Herald, “Our findings would allow breast cancer patients to receive treatments that are the most appropriate to their characteristics, therefore improving treatment response and saving lives”. Breast Cancer Cure trustee Fay Sowerby called the findings “thrilling”. “Clinicians, for a number of years, have been saying to us, ‘tell us who’s at risk, who we need to treat and who’s going to get the most benefit from it’. This does all three,” she said.
The study was performed in collaboration with contributors from the United Kingdom, Singapore and China, and relied on data collected by the Nottingham University Hospitals between 1986 and 1999. The study focused on the protein secreted hominoid specific oncogene (SHON), and found that it was an accurate predictor of a cancer-victim’s chance of survival when treated with hormone therapy drug tamoxifen or anthracycline-based combination chemotherapy. The findings were published in the British Journal of Cancer on the 28th of February.