New diagnostic breast cancer test now available in Ireland

The HSE National Cancer Control Programme has confirmed this week that agreement has been reached to allow for the diagnostic test Oncotype DX  to be made available to appropriate breast cancer patients in the eight designated cancer centres (inclusive of the satellite in Letterkenny General Hospital).

Announcing the decision, the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Susan O’ Reilly said she was “delighted that this new test is now available for a specific group of Irish breast cancer patients. It is a great example of the application of emerging molecular guided technology influencing traditional decision making.  This particular test is clinically beneficial and represents value for money.” 

The NCCP will require that the test be confined to a clearly defined population of node negative breast cancer patients who have had their treatment plan and suitability for chemotherapy and testing confirmed at one of the designated cancer centres (including the satellite at Letterkenny General Hospital).  

About Oncotype DX

Oncotype DX is a laboratory test indicated for women for node negative, hormone receptor positive and HER 2 Neu negative invasive breast cancer. The test provides a risk score that helps determine whether a woman should proceed with curative adjuvant chemotherapy in addition to hormone therapy.  The clinical data published for the use of this test has indicated that up to 30% of women who would otherwise have received chemotherapy will now be considered as low risk and as a result will be spared the toxicity and long term side effects of treatment. 

The test looks at a group of 21 genes within a woman’s tumour sample – 16 cancer genes and 5 control genes – to see how they are expressed, or how active they are.  The results of the test are reported as a quantitative recurrence Score result, which is a score between 0 and 100 that correlates with the likelihood of a woman’s chances of having her cancer return, and the likelihood that she will benefit from adding chemotherapy to her hormonal therapy.

The Oncotype DX test provides information in addition to standard measures (such as tumour size, tumour grade and lymph node status) that doctors have traditionally used to estimate how likely a woman’s cancer is to return, and to help professionals make treatment decisions.

A specific subset of breast cancer patients will be eligible for the test based on defined clinical criteria.  The NCCP expects around 300 women annually to undergo the test, with around 100 women subsequently excluding chemotherapy from their treatment plan.