According to an early online publication from the Journal of Clinical Oncology, specific mutations may indicate which patients with early breast cancer may not receive the most benefit from chemotherapy. While these results need further study, if confirmed, they could help individualize treatments for this disease.

Early breast cancer refers to cancer that has not spread outside the breast to distant sites in the body. Standard therapy for breast cancer includes the surgical removal of the cancer, followed by additional (adjuvant) therapy. Adjuvant therapy is administered to kill any potential cancer cells that may remain in the body.

Although adjuvant therapy is highly effective for most patients with early breast cancer, the disease will recur in a significant portion of women. Researchers are evaluating specific patient and disease variables that may help identify patients who will experience the best results with certain treatments.

Researchers from Germany recently conducted a study of specific genetic alterations that may be involved in lesser anticancer responses to adjuvant therapy among women with early breast cancer. The researchers evaluated cells from lymph nodes that did not contain cancer.

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  • The FGFR4 genotype with the Arg388 alteration was associated with a significantly lower cancer-free survival and overall survival.
  • Patients with the Arg388 alteration only derived half as much benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy as their counterparts.

The researchers concluded that patients with early breast cancer who have the FGFR4 Arg388 genotype, as detected through sensitive laboratory analyses, have a significantly poorer response to adjuvant chemotherapy; in addition, these patients have a significantly worse overall survival.

Reference: Thussbas C, Nahrig J, Streit S, et al. FGFR4 Arg388 Allele Is Associated With Resistance to Adjuvant Therapy in Primary Breast Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Published online ahead of print Jul 5 2006. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.04.8587.

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