A test developed in Sudbury may help doctors determine if chemotherapy will work for breast cancer patients. 

Dr. Amadeo Parissenti, a professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, is part of the research team at the Advanced Medical Research Institute of Canada at Health Sciences North in Sudbury.

He said the research looks at how the tumour itself responds to chemotherapy.

Dr. Amadeo Parissenti

Dr. Amadeo Parissenti, a professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, is part of the research team at the Advanced Medical Research Institute of Canada at Health Sciences North in Sudbury. (Health Sciences North)

“We thought we might be able to identify changes in the activities of certain genes that take place when the patient is responding to chemotherapy or when a tumour is resisting chemotherapy treatment,” he said.

“Chemotherapy doesn’t work in all patients, and yet, it has very nasty side effects.”

If doctors know chemotherapy won’t help, a different treatment could be chosen, such as surgery or radiation.

“This could mean a great deal to patients by improving the quality of health care we deliver,” Parissenti explained.

“So we only continue to provide treatments that are going to be beneficial to patients and minimize the degree of harm that treatment has sometimes on patients.”

Collaboration with other researchers

Parissenti said tests are being offered in a research environment, rather than a treatment environment at this point.

The next step will be to conduct more trials and eventually determine if the test works for patients fighting other cancers, Parissenti said.

“One of our major goals is forging collaborations with other research investigators across the world,” he said.

“We now have research collaborations underway in Italy, Germany, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal — a whole variety of centres.”

Parissenti said he hopes working with researchers at other centres will validate what some researchers have seen in the initial trials.