Scientists with the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have created a free, web-based app that will help better detect a woman's risk of getting breast cancer more than once using analysis of a patient's tumor biopsy.
The app using the analysis could help doctors better decide if women with early-stage breast cancer need to get further molecular tests. These tests can costs thousands of dollars and should only be used when analysis by pathologists don't give a clear answer, the researchers said.
The researchers pointed to one test, the OncotypeDX made by Genomic Health, which detects alterations in genes linked to aggressive breast cancers that are more likely to recur. The test costs about $4,200.
The scientists developed their app, called the Breast Cancer Recurrence Score Estimator, using the medical records of 1,113 patients from five hospitals, including The Johns Hopkins Hospital. The patients all had stage 1 or 2 breast cancer that was estrogen receptor-positive and had the OncotypeDX test done.
The researchers hope more doctors will limit ordering the tests to cases where analysis by pathologists is not clear.
If a patient has a high risk of recurrence it can help a doctor decide if they need chemotherapy and anti-hormone medications after surgery to remove early signs of tumors.
"While such tests can be informative, clinicians ideally should use them when there is a gray zone in which high-quality pathology measures alone do not give doctors all the information they need. Molecular tests should complement, not duplicate, information that is already available," Dr. Antonio Wolff, professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and member of the Kimmel Cancer Center, said in statement.