70 per cent breast cancer patients don’t need chemo

Phyllis Laccetti a participant in the TailorX breast cancer study at her home in Ossining NY

Phyllis Laccetti a participant in the TailorX breast cancer study at her home in Ossining NY

Across the European Union, we have seen positive results for breast cancer care as more women are being diagnosed and treated earlier, leading to higher survival rates.

"I hit the jackpot", said Perkins, who is now 52 and cancer-free more than two years later. Whether or not to have the treatment is a awful dilemma for many women with certain types of breast cancer as they often don't have clear-cut answers on the benefits.

Oncotype DX is not available in India but samples are sent overseas for the test. By continuing the personalized assessment of an individual's cancer recurrence risk, oncologists can more effectively determine specifically-tailored treatments based on that patient's genomic results.

To find the answer, researchers randomly assigned more than 6,700 women with intermediate scores - 11 to 25 - to two groups.

Seventeen percent of women with high risk scores were advised to have chemo and 16 percent with low risk now know they can skip the treatment.

Doctors were unsure, however, whether women in the medium-risk range were benefiting from chemotherapy or just experiencing the side effects.

What will she tell women who under prior guidelines received chemo and all its side effects and didn't need it after all? So they don't have to receive chemotherapy.

Thousands of women have been tested over the years using Oncotype DX to help determine the true effectiveness of chemo.

It is estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 women in the United Kingdom are likely to avoid chemotherapy every year following the trial.

These women would instead be treated with radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy. "[The findings] are both important and significant, and also practice-changing", says, Dr. José Baselga, a medical oncologist and physician in chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY, who was not involved with this research. To conduct the study, women in the intermediate groups were either prescribed chemotherapy or given treatment absent of the use of chemotherapy.

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"Chemotherapy has saved a tremendous amount of lives, and will continue to do so", Baselga says. "It'll be great news for a lot of patients because they will get similar outcomes with less toxic treatment".

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.

A 21-gene test called Oncotype DX, available since 2004, has helped guide some decisions on proper care after surgery.

"We have to develop a new drug for every patient", Rosenberg said.

The good news for around 70,000 women each year comes from the largest study done of breast cancer treatment.

Commenting on the results, Professor Bryan Hennessy, clinical lead, Cancer Trials Ireland, said: "This is a globally important breast cancer trial".

However, the results of the TAILORx trial show only 30 per cent of women with this particular form of early-stage breast cancer benefit from the treatment.

The success, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, is all the more remarkable because breast cancers, like prostate and ovarian cancer, have relatively few mutations, which makes them harder for the immune system to spot amid the body's healthy tissues.

"We have been waiting for these results for years", said Allison Kurian, an oncologist at Stanford University who wasn't involved in the trial.

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