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Watch and Wait For a While

Physicians are beginning to use genetic tests to gauge whether a patient's prostate cancer will be aggressive or not to guide treatment approaches, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Tests like Genomic Health's Oncotype DX prostate cancer, for instance, examine genes from within a patient's prostate biopsy to predict likely outcomes. It and other tests have led physicians and patients to reconsider surgery and opt instead for active surveillance if the risk of aggressive disease is low.

The Journal also reports that Todd Morgan from the Michigan Urological Surgery Improvement Collaborative and his colleagues studied nearly 4,000 men with early-stage prostate cancer to find that those who underwent genomic screening were more likely to choose active surveillance. In particular, they found that 78 percent of those with low-risk or low-to-intermediate-risk cancer that underwent genomic testing chose active surveillance, while 57 percent of men who didn't take the test went on active surveillance, the Journal adds.

However, the Journal notes that just because genomic tests initially suggest treatment might not be necessary doesn't mean it won't be later on. The Cleveland Clinic's Eric Klein, who was involved in early Oncotype DX studies, tells the WSJ that genomics tests "are useful … in the moment."