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Genomic test identifies risk of breast cancer reoccurrence

Research performed by Dr. Torsten Nielsen at BC Cancer in collaboration with colleagues from the U.S. generated a test called Prosigna that identifies the major molecular types of breast cancer and assigns a risk score.
Dr. Torsten Nielsen, professor and clinician scientist at the University of British Columbia and researcher at BC Cancer, has partnered with colleagues in the U.S. to develop a test that identifies a patient’s 10-year risk of distant breast cancer recurrence and provides guidance on individual treatment plans.

Prosigna is a genomic test that analyzes the activity of certain genes in early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

“Prosigna measures RNA expression in breast cancer biopsy and surgical specimens, using NanoString techology -- an elegant and relatively new technology developed down the road in Seattle,” Dr. Nielsen explains. “The result is an absolute digital count of the number of copies of each RNA that were present in the tested sample. These numbers get processed by an algorithm we developed that does two things: assigns a breast cancer molecular subtype (Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2E or basal), and a Risk of Relapse score. With this information, oncologists can identify women whose tumors are such low risk that they do not need chemotherapy.”

In 2017, Prosigna became available as a test run in Vancouver for the benefit of women in British Columbia, while also being used in 13 countries around the world.

“Prosigna has been cleared for use by the US Food & Drug Administration, Health Canada, the European Union and eight other jurisdictions around the world,” says Dr. Nielsen. “Currently, it is the main molecular risk profiling test for breast cancer in Denmark, France, Norway and Spain, as well as in Alberta. It’s been exciting and rewarding to watch Prosigna and its impact reach patients here at home and across the globe. We hope to continue helping patients and their families determine individualized treatment plans that contribute to an improved quality of life.” 



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