Thousands of breast cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy, landmark study says

Thousands of breast cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy, landmark study says

According to first author Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY, "any woman with early-stage breast cancer 75 or younger should have the test and discuss the results" with her doctor.

Dr Alistair Ring, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital, in London, said: "I think this is a fundamental change in the way we treat women with early-stage breast cancer and will lead to a considerable number of women no longer needing to have chemotherapy".

"Breast cancer treatments have advanced so much that treatments can nearly be tailored for patients and this is extremely welcome news as chemotherapy is a particularly invasive treatment".

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, some foundations and proceeds from the USA breast cancer postage stamp. With the same technique, researchers have also been able to shrink hard-to-treat tumors in six other patients with colon and cervical cancers according to Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute where the therapy is being studied.

The result: After an average follow-up of 7.5 years, the researchers saw no added benefit in this group to adding chemotherapy to the treatment mix.

"One of the challenges that we've had in breast cancer is we thought once size fit all, and everyone was getting too much treatment", Olopade said. Women younger than 50 still saw some benefit from chemotherapy, especially with scores between 21-25.

Past experiments revealed that one group of people particular results of the genetic test would benefit from a combination of endocrine therapy and chemotherapy.

That could affect up to 70,000 women a year in the US and thousands more around the world, the study said.

A patient's tumour is genetically analysed to identify the rare changes that might make the cancer visible to the immune system. Some study leaders consult for breast cancer drugmakers or for the company that makes the gene test. We owe those who took part in this trial our thanks.

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The doctors who treated the woman say while their approach is still experimental, they believe it could be adapted to treat other kinds of cancer as well.

The study found that all women over 50 with this type of breast cancer could skip chemotherapy, a group that represented 85 per cent of the study's population. Another, more sinister, aspect to these headlines is the potential to fuel myths and conspiracy theories about the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

Around two thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive the disease, according to Cancer Research UK. Earlier research found that a patient with a high-risk case, or score of 26-100, would benefit from chemotherapy, while a patient at the lower end with a score of 10 and under would not. They say the data "provide evidence that that adjuvant chemotherapy was not beneficial in these patients".

A high recurrence score, above 25, means chemo is advised to ward off a recurrence, while a low score, below 10, means it is not. "It was all gone", she said.

Oncotype DX first hit the market in 2004.

These come from small, early stage studies through to large randomised clinical trials.

"Oncologists have been getting much smarter about dialing back treatment so that it doesn't do more harm than good", Steven Katz, a University of MI researcher who examines medical decision-making, told the Washington Post.

In a paper published in December, Kurian and Katz reported that chemotherapy use was plunging among patients with early-stage breast cancer.

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