Major study finds many breast cancer patients can skip chemotherapy

08 June, 2018, 10:44 | Author: Lillian Steele
  • Many Breast Cancer Patients May Not Need Chemotherapy

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that a significant number of women with early-stage breast cancer may not require chemotherapy-which could potentially be a huge deal for tens of thousands of patients at the edges of the disease. The study is the largest ever done of breast cancer treatment.

"The impact is tremendous", said the study leader, Dr. Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY. "You're never going to see these kinds of trials from the drug companies", because what is being tested might result in less use of their products, Brawley said.

However an estimated 25% of patients stop within two years because they can not endure the side effects, lead author Dr Sherry Shen, of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, said.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, some foundations and proceeds from the US breast cancer postage stamp.

New findings from the groundbreaking Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment (Rx), or TAILORx trial, show no benefit from chemotherapy for 70 percent of women with the most common type of breast cancer. Some study leaders consult for breast cancer drugmakers or for the company that makes the gene test.

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Those who score high - 26-100 - receive both hormone therapy and chemotherapy. When chemo is used now, it's sometimes for shorter periods or lower doses than it once was.

A 21-gene test could allow up to 85% of women with a common type of early breast cancer to forgo chemotherapy and its associated side effects, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

In the United States, those who score low on the test - 0-10 - are already told to skip chemotherapy after their tumours are removed and they receive hormone therapy. Nine years after the treatment was administered, 93.8% were still alive in the chemo group, while 93.9% were still alive in the endocrine-only group. At the moment, women who get a low score on the test are told they do not need chemo, those with a high score are told they definitely do.

Dr. David Chang, a pancreatic cancer surgeon from the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: "The main conclusion from this study is that giving patients chemotherapy and chemoradiation prior to surgery may yield a better long-term outcome than surgery upfront".

"We're getting to be able to personalize treatment now". This is a shocking departure from the conventional standard of care and will likely change how many oncologists treat patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

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