Study: Genetic test/MRI combo key for women at moderate breast cancer risk

We're entering an era in which clinicians are finding greater power by combining diagnostic tools that weren't always used together before and refining that process for specific patient groups. Case in point: New research suggests that a genetic test/MRI combo for patients with an intermediate risk of breast cancer is the most cost-effective and useful option for them.

Forbes reported that Archimedes, a healthcare modeling and analytics company, found in a simulated trial that the breast cancer genetic test in conjunction with an MRI helped best identify patients at intermediate risk for the disease. Researchers used a BREVAGen 7 single-nucleotide polymorphisms genetic test (7SNP, made by Australia's Genetic Technologies) for the study, and details are published online in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

For the simulated trial, Archimedes compared the 7SNP test and something called the Gail risk test, a broadly used model developed by the National Cancer Institute that determines risked based on data such as age, race and family history. They even started with a simulated population of 10,000 women (non-Hispanic and white) from age 40 and higher with no prior cancer history and a low risk based on the Gail measurement.

What they found was that the genetic test/MRI combo worked best when the initial diagnostic assay found patients who had a 16% to 28% risk of breast cancer. By successfully screening for these moderate-risk patients and then sending them off for an MRI, this helped reduce cancer deaths by 2% and saved substantial sums in treatment costs, according to the model. That improvement was much better than the Gail test/MRI combo, the researchers said.

Lead study author Henri Folse is quoted in the Forbes story as saying that the findings can help refine and improve treatment options for patients at intermediate risk for breast cancer, though it didn't affect the reclassification of patients with very low or high risk of getting the disease.

"By improving identification of patients eligible for MRI screening, the use of genetic testing allows physicians to detect cancers earlier," Folse said in the article, which can help patients get quicker treatment and also boosts their survival chances.

The study, mathematical model or not, points to yet another effort to show that genetic tests have utility in everyday medical care, and that MRI manufacturers still have value in the diagnostic and treatment of cancer.

- here's the Forbes story
- read the journal abstract

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