Scientists have developed a new test that is able to predict the risk of breast cancer spreading more accurately and quickly than the current The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved, NHS equivalent.

It could be used to make better decisions about treatment options especially for low-risk women who could be spared unnecessary chemotherapy.

The new test, EndoPredict, analyses data on genetic information, size of tumour and whether or not the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, to generate a score estimating the risk of the breast cancer spreading to other organs. This score, known as the ‘EPclin’ score, is then used to categorise patients into low or high-risk groups.In a UK study funded by Breast Cancer Now, scientists compared the accuracy of EndoPredict with the existing test used by the NHS, Oncotype DX. By comparing results from 928 patients, scientists showed that EndoPredict was almost twice as accurate in identifying low risk women.

Moreover, by subdividing ‘low risk’ patients further, the researchers found that for women with the lowest risk of developing secondary breast cancer, EndoPredict was 99.5% accurate compared to 93% when using Oncotype DX.

By accurately identifying high risk and low-risk women, doctors can ensure chemotherapy is given only to those women who need it, safely avoiding chemotherapy in those women with the lowest risk of cancer recurrence in whom conventional hormonal therapy would be sufficient. In this way using EndoPredict could help spare large numbers of women from unnecessary gruelling rounds of chemotherapy.

What’s more, unlike Oncotype DX, local hospitals will be able to carry out the new test and have results within a few days which means that decisions about whether or chemotherapy is needed can be made more quickly. Currently, Oncotype DX is sent to the US where there is just one lab that can analyse the results and this takes up to two weeks.

EndoPredict is awaiting assessment by NICE who will decide whether or not it should become available on the NHS. In the meantime, the test is only available privately in the UK. While researchers welcomed the new data on EndoPredict, they also wanted to reassure patients that Oncoype DX continues to provide useful clinical information about the recurrence of breast cancer.

Anyone who thinks they could benefit from EndoPredict or Oncotype DX should speak to their doctor.