Gene test could aid management of treatment-resistant cancer

The breakthrough relates to the most common form of the disease, oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancer.

The test would be used to determine when cancer cells were most vulnerable to chemotherapy, timing the treatment to then prevent a relapse.

Women with oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancer typically receive anti-oestrogen therapy. Within 15 years, however, half develop drug resistance, followed by relapse and death.

Scientists believe the anti-oestrogen therapy weakens the BCL-2 gene, which protects the cancer.

The idea would be to test all patients and correctly time the use of chemotherapy to treat the cancer and prevent a relapse when the gene is sufficiently weak.

"Excitingly, this is something that could be implemented into clinical practice very quickly," said Dr Andrew Stone of Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

He worked with colleagues Professor Susan Clark and Professor Liz Musgrove on