Women with early-stage breast cancer can skip chemotherapy

Cancer

In a significant finding, a new research suggests that thousands of women with early-stage breast cancer can avoid debilitating chemotherapy as part of their treatment regimen. The results of the TAILORx study, which the researchers say is the largest ever breast cancer treatment trial, showed that about 70 percent of patients with early-stage breast cancer (HR-positive, HER2-negative, node-negative breast cancer) will receive no benefit from chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs used to stop the growth of rapidly dividing cancer cells in the body.

The research, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, claimed that those patients would effectively be treated with endocrine therapy alone. The findings could mean about 30 percent of breast cancer patients in India can spare chemotherapy, if these tests, particularly Oncotype DX, that can help predict the risk of recurrence of the disease are available at an affordable price in the country.

According to a report in The Times of India, doctors said nearly 50 percent of breast cancer patients in India are diagnosed in advanced stages, which means about 30-35 percent of patients may need to undergo Oncotype DX test even if the test were available.

“This is a game-changer. It’s truly groundbreaking. Now, thousands of women will not have to undergo toxic chemotherapy treatment with its unwanted side effects,” said PBCC President and Founder Pat Halpin-Murphy. “The results of this clinical trial will change the way oncologists treat breast cancer every day here in Pennsylvania and across the country.

”For the TAILORx trial, the researchers examined 10,273 women with early-stage breast cancer using a genetic test that is already available. The team used the Oncotype DX test, which allows doctors to predict the likelihood of the breast cancer returning.

Using tumour samples, the researchers conducted gene tests to identify women who could avoid chemo and take drugs like tamoxifen that block estrogen or stop the body from producing estrogen (endocrine therapy). The clinical trial found that, in patients who received a score of 11 to 25, chemotherapy was not necessary.

“Half of all breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, and axillary node-negative,” said the lead author, Dr Joseph Sparano, an associate director of clinical research at Albert Einstein Cancer Center and Montefiore Health System in New York, and vice-chair of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group.

“Our study shows that chemotherapy may be avoided in about 70% of these women when its use is guided by the test, thus limiting chemotherapy to the 30% who we can predict will benefit from it.

”The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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