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Breast Cancer: Better Test, Better Treatment

Published: March 13, 2009

A new test called chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH) looks for color changes in cancer cells to help identify — without ultra-expensive microscopes — those that are sensitive to certain therapies. Unlike other tests, it can be used on tissue samples stored in the lab. The Food and Drug Administration approved the CISH test last year, and biopsy test kits are now available to U.S. doctors.

“We’ve got a few targeted therapies that can dramatically improve your prognosis if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, but we know that they’re not for everyone,” says pathologist Dr. Olga Falkowski. “These new tests will help doctors quickly and accurately identify women whose cancer is HER-2-positive, thus getting them the best possible treatment in the shortest possible time.”

A second test, silver enhanced in situ hybridization (SISH), deposits tiny amounts of silver to help detect HER-2 genes in cells. Used in other countries, it is awaiting FDA approval in the United States.

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