The University of Rochester Medical Center announced this morning that it has added the capability to test for a critical biomarker in breast cancer patients. The addition of HER2 gene status testing locally will cut the time between test and treatment for patients with specific forms of breast cancer. Until now, samples to be tested had to be sent out of state.
Breast cancers are not all alike. In patients where the HER2 gene is present in large amounts, the cancers are more aggressive and require treatments tailored specifically for them. The test, fluorescence in situ hybridization, allows those cancers to be identified. By having the test available locally, delays between patient testing and treatment are reduced.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that nearly 235,000 patients are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. About 40,000 patients die from the illness. Less than one percent of patients diagnosed are men.
The NCI gives these risk factors for breast cancer:
increasing age, personal or family history of breast cancer, reproductive and menstrual history, the presence of certain genetic changes, history of radiation therapy to the chest, long-term use of menopausal hormone therapy, history of taking DES, increased breast density, obesity, and lack of exercise.
The NCI estimates that $16.1 billion is spent annually on the treatment of breast cancer. The institute itself spent $602.7 million in 2012 on research into the causes, treatments and potential cures for the disease. That amount is nearly double the sum spent on lung cancer, the next highest funded illness at $314.6 million. Its parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, spent $800 million in 2012, including the NCI funds.