A simple genetic test could spare almost half of women with early stage breast cancer from chemotherapy, says a leading UK breast cancer surgeon.

Chemotherapy is often given to breast cancer patients after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence, but side effects can be severe, including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.

The Oncotype DX test, developed by scientists in the U.S, can help doctors predict the likelihood of cancer returning. The non-invasive test involves taking a sample of breast tumor tissue and analyzing groups of genes which can influence how a cancer is likely to grow and respond to chemotherapy.

At the San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium, breast cancer surgeon Simon Holt urged for the introduction of the Oncotype DX test in the UK to lead to improved decision making about treatment.

Holt, from the Hywel Dda Health Board in Wales, recently carried out a study on patients with breast cancer. He found that 46 per cent of them were given unnecessary chemotherapy.

The Oncotype DX test is currently available in the U.S. and The American Society for Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network include it in their treatment guidelines.

Holt said: ‘With nearly 50,000 women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer each year in the UK, a genomic test like Oncotype DX that is capable of predicting treatment benefits and/or outcomes may have an important role to play in improving treatment decision making and ultimately impacting on quality of care.

Source: San Antonio Breast Cancer symposium