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MammaPrint Identifies Breast Cancer Patients Who Can Skip Chemotherapy

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Some good news for breast cancer patients.

New guidelines issued Monday afternoon say patients with early stage-disease should all get a new test.

This test -- the MammaPrint -- identifies who can safely avoid a toxic treatment.

Many breast cancer patients undergo chemotherapy after surgery to avoid the risk of the cancer coming back. But now a new test can tell whether or not women can skip the chemo.

Nicki Durlester was diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer in 2009.

She had surgery. Clinically, she should have gotten chemotherapy.

Durlester said, "Human nature is to throw everything and the kitchen sink at cancer."

But her doctor examined Durlester's tumor with a new gene test called a MammaPrint.

The test analyzes the molecular biology and not the stage of the cancer.

The results found Durlester could safely skip chemo.

Dr. Kristi Funk said, "We can get a genetic typing of your actual cancer. The biology of yours."

Now the American Society of Clinical Oncologists has issued new guidelines, saying MammaPrint should be used in all women with early stage invasive disease.

UCSF Dr. Laura van't Veer helped invent the MammaPrint.

Dr. Van T'veer said, "I'm actually really happy that this now becomes available."

She and Dr. Laura Esserman, director of the UCSF Breast Cancer Center, say the test can help one in four women with early stage cancer avoid chemo.

Esserman said, "Now we have a tool that allows us to say you have an extremely low risk for recurrence at all - so this cancer is not going to kill you. you don't have to be so fearful. That's a fantastic thing to be able to say."

As for Durlester, she remains cancer free.

"I'm grateful other women and men will have the same opportunity," Durlester said.

Dr. Esserman and her team just published a new study on the Mammaprint. It found women with "ultra-low risk" breast cancer may safely skip therapies like tamoxifen, which is also routinely prescribed after surgery.

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