Many Breast Cancer Patients May Not Need Chemotherapy

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A new study published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine may drastically change how medical professionals approach treating women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The extensive study revealed that approximately 70 percent of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer might not benefit from a treatment protocol that includes chemotherapy. This is a shocking departure from the conventional standard of care and will likely change how many oncologists treat patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

The results of the study were presented on Sunday in Chicago at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. The study confirmed that using a 21-gene analyzation to assess cancer recurrence risk can successfully indicate whether or not a woman needs to undergo invasive and unnecessary chemotherapy treatment. 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.

The patients affected by these new study results are those with estrogen-sensitive breast cancers who also test negative for the HER2 gene. In addition, these early tumors must be sized at five centimeters or less and not invasive to the lymph nodes. Lastly, these cancer diagnoses must land between 11 and 25 on the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test.

Findings of the past have indicated that women who met these criteria and scored below ten on the index test could safely skip chemotherapy without raising their rate of recurrence, however, those above 25 would almost always be advised to use chemotherapy as a necessary treatment to lower risk of recurrence. It was the women in the intermediate stages of 11-25 who oncologists often had differing views when prescribing standards of care.

The new research now indicates that these women in this range would most likely not benefit from the costly and often physically devastating chemotherapy protocol. To conduct the study, women in the intermediate groups were either prescribed chemotherapy or given treatment absent of the use of chemotherapy. The overall survival rates and five-year recurrence rates demonstrated differences that were not statistically significant between the two groups, leading researchers to conclude that the benefits of chemotherapy were not necessary for this range of diagnosis.

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