Researchers have come up with a gene test that shows some breast cancer patients can skip chemo without hurting their chances of overcoming the disease. Hint – it’s the women who are in the early stage of breast cancer.
Dubbed “Oncotype DX”, the test showed a high level of accuracy when it identified several women with low risk breast cancer that could be treated so well using only hormone-blocking drugs that making these patients undergo chemo would have done little or no good.
The results showed that only 1 percent (1%) of the women who were told that they could skip chemo after the gene test showed that hormone-blocking drugs would suffice ended up experiencing cancer reoccurrence in the five (5) years since treatment began.
The research team was amazed by the finding as Dr. Joseph Sparano, field expert working at the Montefiore Medical Center, New York, and the study’s lead author, offered a statement informing that “You can’t do better than that”.
But several other researchers who weren’t involved in the project also see the value of the study. Dr. Clifford Hudis from The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, offered a statement of his own agreeing with Dr. Sparano. He said that “There is really no chance that chemotherapy could make that number better”.
This is good news for cancer patients, as many would prefer to avoid chemo. It’s not the safest of treatments, and it often exposes individuals to a number of health risks and side effects while fighting their cancer.
Oncotype DX works because it measures the activity of the genes in charge of controlling cell growth, as well as the activity of the genes in charge of indicating how probable or improbable a patient is to respond well to hormone therapy.
For the study, the researchers focused their efforts on early stage breast cancer with no spread to lymph nodes and hormone-positive, meaning that the growth of their tumors was fueled by either progesterone or estrogen. This is the most often encountered type of breast cancer and so far Herceptin, a popular drug, has not been able to target it.
Overall, Dr. Sparano and his colleagues selected 10,253 female subjects for their study. Out of all of them, 16 percent (16%) were diagnosed with low risk cancer, 67 percent (67%) were diagnosed with intermediate risk cancer, and 17 percent (17%) were diagnosed with high risk cancer.
Women who had high risk cancer were put on a treatment that included hormone-blocking drugs as well as chemo, women who had intermediate risk cancer were split in two – half of them were treated with hormone-blocking drugs and the other half with chemo – and women who had low risk cancer were only treated with hormone-blocking drugs.
Since the project is ongoing, not all of the results are available yet. However, independent monitors did ask the researchers to make the results of the low risk group available.
So far, the data has shown that after five (5) of taking hormone-blocking drugs and staying away from chemo, 99 percent (99%) of these subjects never experienced a relapse, 98 percent (98%) of them are still alive right now, and 94 percent (94%) of them don’t have any invasive cancers.
The study was published earlier today, September 28, 2015, in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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