Hormone therapy will replace chemotherapy for most breast cancer treatment

06 June, 2018, 19:27 | Author: Wilson Dawson
  • Many women with early-stage breast cancer can skip chemotherapy: Study

A United States woman with advanced breast cancer is healthy again after taking part in an experimental treatment, using her body's own immune system to wipe out the tumours.

After the treatment, all trace of Perkins' cancer disappeared and has not returned more than 22 months later, according to a report in the journal Nature Medicine.

The results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago yesterday.

The study cast doubt on chemo's necessity in treating women in the early stages of the disease if: 1) there is no spread to lymph nodes; 2) the cancer is hormone-positive; and 3) the cancer is not the type targeted by the drug Herceptin.

When deciding how to treat a breast cancer patient, doctors have used a 21-gene test.

To find the answer, researchers randomly assigned more than 6,700 women with intermediate scores - 11 to 25 - to two groups. Women with low risk scores - those below 10 - don't need chemotherapy after surgery, and instead can be treated with hormone therapy, previous studies have found. Erring on the side of caution, doctors usually give these women chemotherapy.

What is less clear is whether chemotherapy will be of any benefit to the majority of patients who have a mid-range recurrence score. Larger clinical trials would be necessary before it is a proven effective and safe therapy say the team. That means more than 85,000 women a year can safely forgo chemotherapy.

Rachel Rawson, of Breast Cancer Care, added: "This life-changing breakthrough is absolutely wonderful news and could liberate thousands of women from the agony of chemotherapy".

"The study should have a huge impact on doctors and patients", Dr. Kathy Albain, a hematologist/oncologist at Loyola Medicine in IL and a study co-author, said in a press release.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, various foundations and proceeds from the breast cancer research stamp, the study is the largest ever done on breast cancer treatment.


The TAILORx trial shows that only 30% of women with this particular form of early-stage breast cancer derive any benefit from the treatment.

Women with scores of 10 or lower were considered not to need chemotherapy while those with scores 25 and over were considered to need it.

Jennifer Litton, an associate professor and oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told USA Today that the results will help patients and their doctors make more informed decisions. Under-50s with a score of up to 15 can also be spared the treatment. This showed that the chemotherapy had no influence in the outcome of the cancer.

Judy Perkins, who is a resident of Florida, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer a little over two years ago.

This resulted in a "highly personalised" anti-cancer therapy that yielded "complete tumour regression", the researchers wrote. Longer-term effects of chemotherapy include infertility and heart failure. After an average of nine years, 83.3% of those who did not undergo chemotherapy remained cancer-free, compared to 84.3% of those given chemo.

"When you get diagnosed with breast cancer, you're like, 'What?' You know, 'I work out".

Women with early-stage breast cancer tend to have high survival rates, but their outlook worsens tremendously if the cancer returns to other parts of the body.

"At lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy - a unique drug for every cancer patient - it is very different to any other kind of treatment".

Patients scoring 26 or higher on the scale do benefit and receive chemotherapy.

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