Most Women With Breast Cancer Can 'Safely Avoid Chemotherapy'

05 June, 2018, 16:06 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Adine Usher 78 meets with breast cancer study leader Dr. Joseph Sparano at the Montefiore and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx borough of New York. Usher was one of about 10,000 participants in the study which shows women at low or inter

There are typically more than 55,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the United Kingdom each year, while around 11,500 people die from the disease.

Researchers have unveiled a study suggesting that 70 percent of women with HER2-negative breast cancer that hasn't spread to the lymph nodes get no extra benefits from undergoing chemotherapy.

Now cancer scientists across the globe are looking at how this new research - which was published in Nature Medicine today - can be applied to any type of cancer.

The Institute of Cancer Research said: "This fascinating and exciting study in a single breast cancer patient provides a major "proof-of-principle" step forward, in showing how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to attack even the most difficult-to-treat cancer".

Women can have the tendency to turn towards chemo, even if the results have a relatively small benefit, Albain says.

"The impact is tremendous", said the study's leader, Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY.

Professor Arnie Purushotham, senior clinical advisor at Cancer Research UK, said that by grouping patients based on how likely their cancer is to return, the trial shows great potential to ensure treatment is kinder without compromising its effectiveness.

After 42 weeks from the start of treatment she was declared cancer-free.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society said that he was "delighted" by the study and anxious about unnecessary cancer treatment and the side effects that come from chemotherapy.

"You shouldn't do chemo unless you have to", added Dr. Jack Jacoub, medical oncologist and medical director at the MemorialCare Cancer Institute at the Orange Coast Medical Center in California.


Because of her work as a nurse, she was familiar with chemotherapy's sometimes harsh effects.

An experimental therapy that extracts and multiplies powerful immune-system cells from inside tumors eradicated a patient's breast cancer, a scientific first that could lead to new ways of treating malignancies that have resisted all other efforts. Previous studies demonstrated that patients with low scores (10 or lower) did not need chemotherapy, while women with high scores (above 25) did require and benefit from chemotherapy.The new study examined the majority of women who fall in the intermediate range of 11 to 25.

Not all breast tumors behave the same way, with a number of different subtypes of breast cancer defined by genetic and protein markers.

How does the study fit into the debate over "de-escalating" treatment of early-stage breast cancer? Around half of these patients would historically receive chemotherapy after having surgery to remove their tumour, to prevent recurrence of the disease.

Scott Antonia, an immunologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, said further work is crucial.

It follows trials of a genetic test that analyses the danger of a tumour. The trial also wanted to confirm that a low RS of 0 to 10 is associated with a low rate of distant recurrence when patients receive endocrine therapy alone.

Women aged 50 or younger were the notable exception. After nine years, 94% of both groups were still alive and about 84% were alive without signs of cancer, meaning the chemo made no difference.

A new class of patients could soon be treated for breast cancer, no chemotherapy required.

"I'll be able to look people in the eye and say, 'We analysed your tumor, you have a really good prognosis and you actually don't need chemotherapy.' That's a nice thing to be able to say to somebody".

Among the immediate effects are nausea, hair loss, and reduced blood counts.

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