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Breast cancer patients are routinely using a drug without completing a breast cancer testing session used to properly administer the medication, researchers say.
Women with early-stage breast cancer are encouraged to undertake a breast cancer test designed to ascertain whether tumors express the HER2 protein. Patients who test positive for the protein are often given a regimen of the drug Herceptin which is only effective against HER2-positive cancers.
However, a study which will appear in the November 15 issue of Cancer delineates that about 66 percent of patients eligible for the testing never received the test, and about 20 percent of women who received Herceptin were not assessed to see if the drug would be effective.
Dr Elena Elkin, a researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said that proper use of the HER2 protein test "may help optimize limited healthcare resources and improve care for women with breast cancer."
In the meantime, doctors expect that testing strategies will develop as further research begins to identify gene mutations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, a total of 41,116 women and 375 men died from breast cancer.
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