photo of Dr. John A. Olson, Jr.University of Maryland cancer surgeon John A. Olson, Jr., MD, PhD, co-authored a study published online recently in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that women with early-stage breast cancer could safely forego chemotherapy based on their score on a genetic test. Dr. Olson is the Campbell & Jeanette Plugge Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Chief of General and Oncologic Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The Oncotype DX test provides a score based on the genetics of a woman's tumor that predicts her risk of recurrence. The study found that less than 1 percent of women who took estrogen-blocking drugs and skipped chemotherapy based on their test results experienced a recurrence of their cancer in other parts of the body five years later.

Researchers say the study results validate the Oncotype DX test, which measures the expression of 21 genes in tumor tissue and support oncologists' efforts to identify low-risk patients who can be spared being treated with chemotherapy that is of no benefit and can produce significant side effects.

"This study is a great example of the potential of cancer biomarkers to help doctors make smarter treatment decisions for patients suffering from cancer," Dr. Olson says.

The test has been used for a decade to help guide treatment for patients with early-stage, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes. It is among the tools that oncologists in the Breast Evaluation and Treatment Service at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer use to create individualized treatment plans for breast cancer patients.

For more information on breast health or our comprehensive breast care services, please call the Breast Center at 410-328-3215.