Controversial cancer tests still sent out of N.L.
Five years after ER/PR problems found, province still not ready to do tests
Hormone receptor testing for breast cancer patients in Newfoundland and Labrador is still having to be done outside of the province five years after doctors first started questioning N.L. laboratories' accuracy in performing the tests.
The N.L. labs' flawed execution of the tests, known as estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor, or ER/PR, testing, was the subject of a provincial inquiry and a class action lawsuit against Eastern Regional Health Authority, the province’s largest health authority.
The tests are used to determine what type of breast cancer – either hormone receptor negative or positive – a patient has.
"At this point, Eastern Health has not resumed all of its own ER/PR testing," said Eastern Health spokesperson Deborah Collins in an email to CBC News Feb. 8. "However, discussions are currently underway on that front."
Eastern Health first started sending ER/PR tests out of the province in 2005 after doctors in the province began questioning the way the tests were being done in N.L.
The results of hormone receptor tests are used to help determine the course of treatment and can influence the outcome of treatment.
If a patient's tumour is hormone receptor positive, the individual may be given an antihormonal treatment, such as Tamoxifen.
Hundreds of tests wrong
Thousands of results of ER/PR tests done in N.L. from 1997 to 2005 were sent out of the province for retesting. Independent laboratories found 425 of the results were wrong.
A resulting class action lawsuit against Eastern Health reached a $17.5 million settlement last October. Many of the plaintiffs died before the settlement was reached. The details of the agreement have been presented in court for approval but a judge has not ruled on them yet.
A provincial inquiry into hormone receptor testing led by Supreme Court Judge Margaret Cameron reported its findings early last March. Cameron recommended sweeping changes at Eastern Health.
The health authority is expected to give a one-year update on the implementation of those recommendations in March 2010.
"In terms of resumption of ER/PR testing, we're not ready yet, but [we] will certainly let everyone know when we are," Collins said.
Eastern Health's head of laboratory medicine, Dr. Nash Denic, declined an interview request from CBC News Thursday.