Thousands of breast cancer patients could be spared chemotherapy

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The findings say women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely forego chemotherapy without hurting their chances of a full recovery.

"I think everyone will now feel more comfortable with their decisions", Dr. Otis Brawley, MACP, FASCO, FACE, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, told Healthline.

Until now, women have faced considerable uncertainty about whether to add chemo to hormone therapy after a diagnosis with hormone-receptor positive, HER-2 negative breast cancer when found at an early stage, before it has spread to the lymph nodes.

The test examines the activity of 21 genes of breast cancer tissue and assigns it a score between 0 and 100. Women older than 50 with a midrange risk - defined in the study as a score of 11 to 25 on a tumour test - can skip chemo and just have endocrine therapy.

Very high scores are at increased risk of the cancer spreading, and those patients have benefited a lot by chemotherapy. The 67 percent of women who were at intermediate risk all had surgery and hormone therapy. Despite seven types of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, her disease was still growing. Nine-year rates were similar for iDFS (83.3% vs 84.3%), DRFI (94.5% vs 95.0%), RFI (92.2% vs 92.9%), and OS (93.9% vs 93.8%) for the RS 11 to 25 arm. "Practically speaking, this means that thousands of women will be able to avoid chemotherapy, with all of its side effects, while still achieving excellent long-term outcomes", said ASCO expert Dr Harold Burstein. The researchers found that 83.3% of women on hormone therapy and 84.3% of classically treated women had not seen the disease progress.

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The global trial, known as TAILORx, involved over 10,000 women from 1,182 research units in Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Peru.

"She may have lost her life", her husband, Scott Satterfield, said recently, "but I hope someone else will gain from her trial". Her cancer did not respond to any treatments, including chemotherapy and hormone therapy, until this one- time treatment with more personalized immunotherapy.

Judy Perkins is the first woman in the world to have her breast cancer completely eradicated using a technique to turbocharge her immune system.

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

Dr. Lisa Carey, a breast specialist at the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said she would be very comfortable advising patients to skip chemo if they were like those in the study who did not benefit from it.

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ACT has been shown to be effective in treating tumours with a high level of mutations such as melanoma, but has been less successful when tested in cancers with a lesser mutation load, such as stomach, oesophageal, ovarian, and breast cancers. Other patients may change their treatment approach based on the results.

Judy Perkins from Florida had been given three months to live by her doctors, but two years later there is no sign of cancer in her body. We owe those who took part in this trial our thanks.

An almost-unprecedented cure for a terminal breast cancer patient using a form of cellular immunotherapy shows that while immuno-oncology is still in its infancy, the potential is enormous.

Breast cancer patients should talk with their doctor to come up with the appropriate treatment.

Litton, the MD Anderson oncologist, said doctors need to consider each case on its own merits; she cautioned against ruling out chemo too quickly.

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