Breakthrough breast cancer study means fewer women needing chemotherapy

06 June, 2018, 05:42 | Author: Denise Dawson
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They represent roughly half of the more than 17,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Australia every year.

The patients' tumors were analyzed using a test called Oncotype DX, which examines the activity of 21 genes to predict the risk of a recurrence over 10 years.

"The impact is tremendous", study leader, Dr. Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY, told the Associated Press. The results suggest that nearly 70 per cent breast cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy. "[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. "Not only did these trials provide great relief for women in Ireland who participated and avoided three months of chemotherapy, it delivered considerable cost savings to the HSE", Ms Mulroe noted. "Most women in this situation don't need treatment beyond surgery and hormone therapy", he said, and "the rest of them are receiving chemotherapy unnecessarily". "Our uncertainty is over", she says.

This could affect up to 70,000 women a year in the US and many more worldwide, the study noted. Hormone therapy alone was as good as a combination of chemotherapy and hormone therapy in women with an intermediate risk of their cancer returning.

The patients in this group were randomly assigned to chemotherapy with supplemental hormone therapy or just hormone therapy alone.

Still, he acknowledged that most patients with this form of advanced cancer will die within months, and "we need to do a lot more work".

The study published on Sunday, on which early-stage breast cancer patients can forgo chemo, is by far the most impactful so far.

Steven Rosenberg, who is leading the ongoing clinical trial, suggests this is an exciting early result, highlighting that this kind of treatment is not cancer-type specific but can be applied to a broad variety of different cancers. At least 30-40 per cent patients, to whom we advice Oncotype DX, come in this score range.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, behind only skin cancer.

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"If it weren't for patients like (ours) throughout the country, we wouldn't know these answers", Yost explained.

In an article commenting on the results of Dr Rosenberg's trial, Dr Laszlo Radvanyi of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research said they provided evidence that "we are now at the cusp of a major revolution" in cancer immunotherapy.

Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, told The Guardian: "This is a remarkable and extremely promising result, but we need to see this effect repeated in other patients before giving hope of a new immunotherapy for incurable metastatic breast cancer".

This resulted in a "highly personalised" anti-cancer therapy that yielded "complete tumour regression", the researchers wrote.

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

The charity Breast Cancer Now said the findings were "practice-changing".

For women in the USA, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. This gives the genes a point score from zero to 100 based on how active they are.

The patient was injected with 80 billion selected immune cells, as well as being given a drug called pembrolizumab or Keytruda, which can help the immune system to attack cancer.

Harold Burstein, a breast cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said that in some ways the debate over de-escalation misses a larger issue.

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