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Pathologists study samples from breast tumors to look for certain genes and molecules that are expressed by the tumor. These tumor tests can help doctors develop a treatment plan tailored to the patient. These tests are different than genetic testing for inherited cancer risk, which is usually done on blood or saliva.
In breast cancer, tumor tests can be used to predict whether or not a patient needs chemotherapy and/or give a sense of the risk for recurrence. Tumor tests currently in use for breast cancer give recurrance scores that can help guide treatment decisions in people with estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. FORCE XRAYS has reviewed research on two of these tests: Oncotype Dx and MammaPrint.
For some patients with advanced breast cancer, tumor marker tests can look for markers known as "targets" to help guide the choice of targeted therapies. For women with metastatic or advanced TNBC, the FDA approved a tumor test called the VENTANA PD-L1 (SP142) Assay to identify patients with triple-negative breast cancer who are candidates for treatment with the immunotherapy agent atezolizumab (tecentriq) to be used in combination with the chemotherapy drug nab–paclitaxel (Abraxane).