URMC to offer HER2 testing for breast cancer

Posted at: 10/08/2013 5:16 PM
By: Lia Lando

Important medical news in the fight against breast cancer in our area. For the first time, the University of Rochester Medical Center is using a test that measures how aggressive a tumor is. This means less time doctors and local patients will have to wait for results.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is not a one size fits all disease and now women in Rochester will have easy access to a test that measures something known as the HER2 status of the tumor.

If the HER2 status is amplified, the tumor can be much more dangerous and that occurs in more that 15 percent of breast cancer cases. When HER2 testing is done in facilities outside of Rochester, the results usually take about seven to 10 days. But now, patients will get the results in about one to two days. Doctors say this will make it easier for them to start treating the cancer with the right drugs faster.

The University of Rochester Medical Center can test 500 cases a year for HER2. Dr. David Hicks was very instrumental in bringing the testing here.

Dr. David Hicks, Director of URMC Surgical Pathology, said, "Ultimately it's about the patient. We identify the patients as being HER2 positive or negative and if they are positive they're candidates for these targeted treatments that have the potential to decrease the likelihood of occurrence by up to 50 percent improved survival."

Christine Hall, breast cancer patient, said, “It's very reassuring and it was definitely a turning factor when we learned I was definitely HER2 positive. In terms of the more optimistic outlook and options available, we did high fives all around the office when the tests came back. "

HER2 or the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 regulates the normal growth of cells. When the HER2 gene is amplified, the tumors are usually more aggressive and requires specialized, targeted treatment.