PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Clues as to whether drugs to prevent breast cancer will work can be found in your genes.

“The question came up, how can we better identify women who would benefit from the medicine?” explains Dr. Thomas Julian, a breast cancer specialist at Allegheny General Hospital.

In a specific sequence of DNA, women with one variation responded well to the medications tamoxifen and raloxifene to prevent breast cancer.

Those with a different variation did not respond, and in fact, had five times the risk of developing the disease.

“It’s a bit of a natural evolution in how to start personalizing medical care, cancer care for patients who might be at risk,” Dr. Julian continues.

The study involved about 600 women followed over five years. They were at high risk based on their family and reproductive histories.

This work done by local researchers in combination with other medical centers around the world shows genetic testing could be useful in figuring out treatment.

But because it’s still in the research stage, it is not yet covered by insurance.

“Once it’s been validated, and again shown to be in multiple groups of individuals, this would be something insurance companies would agree to undertake and test for,” Dr. Julian predicts.

Not only can this finding help women get the most personalized treatment, it also gives us more information about the biology of breast cancer.

Researchers will be looking at the way prevention drugs work in combination with genes to find other ways of fighting breast cancer.

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