'Lifesaving Test': The treatment that can save breast cancer patients from chemotherapy

"It saved my life on an emotional level. I was spared all of that suffering."

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Most breast cancer patients are diagnosed at early stages, and that’s good news. Today, thanks to Oncotest’s “Oncotype DX,” physicians can determine whether chemotherapy to prevent a recurrence of cancer can be forgone after tumor excision, thus sparing women the side effects they are so concerned about.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer – the most common tumor among women in the Western world in general and specifically in Israel – is the key to recovery. According to the Israel National Cancer Registry – one of every eight women will contract breast cancer during her life. Every woman – even without risk factors – has a 14% chance of contracting breast cancer.

In order to provide effective treatment, it is very important to determine the type of tumor, its characteristics and whether there is a sensitivity to female hormones, such as estrogen. Today, molecular tumor analysis tests accurately assess which patients do not need chemotherapy and for whom chemotherapy is essential and may be lifesaving. The only test that has demonstrated the predictability of the benefits of chemotherapy is Oncotest’s “Oncotype DX.”

“Oncotype DX” is a genomic test that examines the expression of 21 genes in the cancerous tissue removed during tumor excision or a biopsy. The results are provided as a value on a scale of 0-100, called the Recurrence Score (RS). The lower the RS Score, the smaller the chance of local or distant recurrence of the disease, and, more importantly, the benefit of complementary chemotherapy is smaller to negligible. Therefore, in most cases, the attending physicians tend to forgo the addition of chemotherapy. The higher the RS, the greater the benefit of chemotherapy. In such cases, physicians will tend to add complementary chemotherapy to the plan in order to reduce the chance of recurrence.

Soli Hakim, 60, a mother of two from Yavne, underwent the test about a year ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer. “I noticed something unusual in my breast, which seemed very odd. I tried to feel it, but there was no lump,” she says. “I asked for a mammogram, after which I was referred to undergo a biopsy, which confirmed that there was a cancerous lump with infected nodes, requiring chemotherapy and surgery.”

“My eldest son was supposed to get married two months later, and I told my doctor that I did not intend to undergo chemotherapy,” Soli recalls. “The doctor made it clear that there was no choice because the cancer might spread. The surgeon referred me to an oncologist while my greatest concern was with the side effects of chemotherapy, such as hair loss,” she adds. “During our conversation, the doctor told me about Oncotype DX.”

Soli knew she would perform the test at all costs. “I told the doctor that I wanted to do the test because it was my chance to avoid chemotherapy. The test could spare the side effects of undergoing chemotherapy,” she recalls. It took about two weeks for the results to come back from the US, and when they did, they showed that chemotherapy would not be effective in her case. “From that moment on, I became a different person – as if I didn’t have cancer. As far as I’m concerned, the test saved me from the chemotherapy and side effects that I was so worried about. It gave me an amazing boost.”

Fortunately for Soli, the results of her test were good, and her RS was 16 – a result that demonstrated that, in her case, chemotherapy would have made a minimal contribution. Since then, she received hormone therapy to reduce the lump and underwent surgery after nine months of treatment. She completed radiation therapy last month and, as stated, did not require any chemotherapy whatsoever.

“I underwent a month of radiation therapy, which is easier than chemotherapy. I met people who had to undergo chemotherapy – no hair and no energy. Luckily, I didn’t have to go through that process thanks to Oncotype D,” she concludes. “I chose to share my story so that if anyone has doubts, she shouldn’t think twice. It saved my life on an emotional level. I was spared all of that suffering.”

This article was written in cooperation with Oncotest