Buddy Check 7: Genetic analysis paving the way for better, more personalized breast cancer treatment

Buddy Check 7
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 3:51 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2022 at 3:52 PM CST
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(WSAW) - There’s an emphasis on early detection that you hear about often.

“We’re incorporating a lot of genetic analysis into our treatment of cancer patients, all cancer patients, but especially breast cancer patients too,” said Stephanie Engelien, the Oncology Research Nurse Supervisor at Marshfield Clinic Cancer Care and Research Center.

And with technology advancing in terms of genetics, this is just another tool in the toolbox to save lives.

“They get incorporated into our standard of care, so it really makes a difference on how we’re able to treat and the predictions we can make as to what the needs will be going forward and then follow up,” Engelien added.

She said there are two tests they typically use. The first is called Next Generation Sequencing.

“Which is a test that allows us to literally just look at the mutations in the cancer cells. It allows us to tell what’s in those cancer cells than in normal cells in the body,” explained Engelien.

She said the beauty of that, is being able to match the patient with a drug that only targets those mutations, unlike chemotherapy, which is more of an umbrella treatment.

“These are very personalized and very specific treatments, and they tend to be tolerated much, much better than the traditional chemotherapies,” Engelien said.

The other type of genetic test is called an OncotypeDX test, which gives a score that determines the likelihood of breast cancer coming back.

“Once you’re treated, if you know that they have a score that means that they’re higher risk for recurrence, it may affect the way we follow up. Maybe we follow up for frequently than the standard has been, if we know that,” Engelien explained. “The other thing that that test tells us is how useful certain combinations of chemotherapy and hormonal treatments are going to be for patients.”

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