A new study has found that a simple gene test reveals which breast cancer patients can skip chemotherapy and which can not. Hint – women in the early stage of the disease can choose not to undergo chemotherapy without worrying that they’re going to hurt their chances of getting better.
• The gene test can inform which patients can beat the disease by simply taking hormone-blocking drugs.
• Drugs alone are so effective in low risk patients that only 1 percent (1%) or less of them experience cancer reoccurrence.
The team of researchers behind the project says that their test, Oncotype DX, was able to accurately identify several women who had breast cancers that were going to react to hormone-blocking drugs so well that asking them to also undergo chemotherapy would have done little to no good.
Many cancer patients would like to avoid chemotherapy as this isn’t the safest treatment available. It exposes them to a variety of side effects and health risks while fighting their cancer.
The results of the experiments conducted for the study showed that women who decided to skip chemotherapy, after the test revealed that it was ok for them to do so, didn’t even have a 1 percent (1%) chance of experiencing cancer reoccurrence sometime in the next one (1) to five (5) years.
Dr. Joseph Sparano, lead author on the study and field expert from Montefiore Medical Center (New York), gave a statement saying that “You can’t do better than that”.
And the findings have been well received by the medical community. Dr. Clifford Hudis is a field expert from The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York). He was not involved in the study, however he agrees with Dr. Sparano. He gave a statement of his own informing that “There is really no chance that chemotherapy could make that number better”.
Dr. Hudis also believes that the discovery will not only help breast cancer patients in the early stage of the disease avoid unwanted side effects, but also benefit patients in a later stage as the gene test allows field experts to “focus our chemotherapy more on the higher risk patients who do benefit”.
Oncotype DX works by measuring the activity of the genes responsible for cell growth, as well as the activity of the genes responsible for indicating how likely the patient is to respond to hormone therapy.
For their study, Dr. Sparano and his colleagues focused on early stage breast cancer, the most wide spread type of breast cancer. None of the patients had cancers that spread to their lymph nodes, and they were all hormone-positive, meaning that their tumors grew because they were fueled by either estrogen or progesterone. What’s more, none of the subjects had cancers that could be targeted by Herceptin, a popular drug.
The researchers looked at a total of 10,253 women. Sixteen percent (16%) of them had low risk cancer, 67 percent (67%) of them had intermediate risk cancer, and 17 percent (17%) of them had high risk cancer.
The study is ongoing, however the results for the low risk group have been made available at the recommendation of independent monitors. These patients have been taking hormone-blocking drugs for the past five (5) years, and they never underwent chemotherapy. The results show that 99 percent (99%) of them did not experience a relapse, 98 percent (98%) are still alive today, and 94 percent (94%) are free of all invasive cancers.
The findings were published earlier today, September 28, 2015, in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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