WASHINGTON, May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Important progress is being made in women's health through the use of genetic tests, particularly those that help women detect and treat cancer.
The tests identify the genetic and molecular structure of the disease and the individual woman, which allows for personalized medicine tailored to the exact needs of the patient.
In the case of breast cancer and colon cancer, this enables physicians to better select the appropriate cancer treatment. In cervical cancer, genetic tests can detect cancer cells at the earliest stages of the disease.
This targeted approach to cancer care is beginning to redefine traditional treatment patterns—from doing everything that might possibly help a patient, to doing exactly what is needed for the patient based on the unique molecular nature of the individual's disease.
"In many ways, genetic testing represents the future of cancer care," says Alan Mertz, American Clinical Laboratory Association President. "The potential is dramatic—earlier detection, better outcomes and fewer damaging side-effects."
Here are some examples.
HER-2 breast cancer test: Physicians are using a molecular genetic test to detect an overabundance of HER2 protein on the surface of a breast cancer tumor. For these women—who usually do not benefit from standard treatments—physicians can prescribe the gene-based drug Herceptin that will bind to the protein and deactivate it.
The breast cancer test enables drug treatment that has been shown to increase survival by 33 percent and reduce recurrence by 50 percent.
HPV-DNA cervical cancer test: Genetic tests for the HPV viruses that cause cervical cancer improve the ability to identify the disease at its earliest stages by 51 percent compared to using the Pap test only.
The HPV DNA tests add another important screening tool to the Pap test by identifying the high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that lead to cervical cancer. The tests can also determine whether atypical cells identified by Pap tests are actually pre-cancerous.
KRAS colon cancer test: This test identifies people with a normal gene called KRAS who will respond to a front-line cancer drug called cetuximab. About 40 percent of patients with metastatic colon cancer carry a mutated form of the KRAS gene that prevents them from responding to this drug. In fact, if they get it, they can suffer damaging side-effects. Knowing that the patient has the KRAS mutation means that doctors can avoid using it and expedite the best alternative therapy.
Many promising genetic tests are also in development that could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment for lung, ovarian, and other cancers—as well as heart disease and other chronic diseases.
For more information on targeted treatment for cancer, see: http://labresultsforlife.org/news/finaltargeted_treatment.pdf
The American Clinical Laboratory Association is a non-profit group representing the nation's clinical reference laboratories. Results for Life, the group's educational campaign, focuses on the value of laboratory medicine. See www.labresultsforlife.org.
SOURCE American Clinical Laboratory Association