Are genomic assays ready for prime time? A prominent investigator weighs in

March 9, 2010

Next-generation genomic assay technologies are revolutionizing our ability to characterize cancers at the genomic levels, providing critical prognostic and predictive information for individual patients with breast cancer, thereby helping to guide treatment decisions. According to Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, these emerging technologies will change the way we treat breast cancer.

Reporting from the 27th Annual Miami Breast Cancer Conference, ONCOLOGY spoke with Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Burstein is engaged in clinical investigation that helps define new treatment options for women with early-stage and advanced breast cancer-emerging genomic assays may provide prognostic and predictive information for individual patients with breast cancer, thereby helping to guide the most effective therapy for breast cancer.

Dr Burstein, who presented a session titled, "Hormonal Therapy for Breast Cancer: The Latest in Therapy and Prognostic Assays," told ONCOLOGY, "Genomic assays are very helpful for identifying which patients with ER positive, node-negative breast cancers are likely to benefit from chemotherapy, and these same assays are potent markers of absolute risk of recurrence."

Asked about progress in individualizing therapies based on assays, Dr. Burstein replied, "In the future, we hopefully will have assays that identify candidates for specific chemotherapy regimens or endocrine treatments. It is easy to imagine that within the next 5 years, we will be checking a molecular diagnostic result on all newly diagnosed breast cancers. Such individualized therapy will have major consequences for how we think about and treat breast cancer."