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Breakthrough Breast Cancer has developed a test to predict the risk of breast cancer returning for patients who have the most common type of the disease. Here is the latest information on its development.
What is the IHC4 test and what is good about it?
The IHC4 test is one of the most important developments in how we treat breast cancer in many years. For patients with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer, which affects around 37,000 women in the UK each year, it can predict if their disease is likely to return.
If those patients are at low risk of the disease coming back, they could potentially be spared chemotherapy treatment and its associated toxic side effects. Therefore, this test could make the treatment of breast cancer significantly easier for thousands of women in the UK each year. However, while the test is very promising, it has not yet been approved for use on the NHS.
When could patients benefit?
The IHC4 test has recently been reviewed by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), the body which advises the NHS on which treatments and technologies it should provide. It was reviewed alongside three other, similar tests. The other three were rejected, while IHC4 was recommended for further research. If these trials go well, it could be ready to use in hospitals within the next one to two years.
What happens now?
Following NICE’s judgement, Breakthrough Breast Cancer researchers will now go back to the lab to provide evidence showing the effectiveness and reliability of IHC4.
How much does it cost?
While it is not yet known exactly how much it will cost, it should be relatively simple to roll out across the NHS. That is because it combines other tests the NHS does already, with one addition. It is also a tenth of the cost of rival tests.
Who invented the test?
The IHC4 test was created by a team led by Professor Mitch Dowsett at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research in London. Professor Dowsett is one of the world’s leading breast cancer researchers who strives to match treatments with the right patient to maximise their benefit.
Dr Caitlin Palframan, Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer says:
“This could be a game-changer for how we treat thousands of breast cancer patients in the UK each year. If this test is proven effective, doctors could tell some patients: ‘Your breast cancer is unlikely to return. We can successfully treat you without needing chemotherapy.’ That would be such a confidence boost to those patients who have had a breast cancer diagnosis.
“However, it still has some way to go. None of us wants this test to be approved until it has solid evidence underpinning it. Our scientists are now working to prove this test’s reliability. We hope it will be made available on the NHS when that evidence has been gathered.”