The mortality from breast cancer has improved steadily over the past two decades, in part because of the increased use of more effective adjuvant therapies. Thousands of women are routinely treated with intensive chemotherapy, which can be unpleasant, is expensive and is occasionally hazardous. Oncologists have long known that some of these women may not need treatment, either because they have a low risk of relapse or because they have tumour biology that makes them less sensitive to chemotherapy and more suitable for early adjuvant endocrine therapy. There is an urgent need to improve patient selection so that chemotherapy is restricted to those patients who will benefit from it. Here we review the emerging technologies that are available for improving patient selection for chemotherapy. We describe the OPTIMA trial, which has just opened to recruitment in the UK, is the latest addition to trials in this area, and is the first to focus on the relative cost-effectiveness of alternate predictive assays.
Copyright © 2012. Published by Elsevier Ltd.