Why those diagnosed with breast cancer may not be offered chemotherapy
Breast cancer is the biggest cause of deaths caused by cancer in women, causing half a million deaths every year, and 1.7 million new cases. However, research that was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology has suggested that women who are diagnosed in the early stages of breast cancer, might not require chemotherapy as part of their treatment plan.
Dr Otis Brawley, who is the chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society is delighted by the results, saying;
“I’ve been worried for a long time about unnecessary treatment for cancer, and unnecessary side effects from chemotherapy…Now with these genomic tests, we are finding that we have multiple types of breast cancer, perhaps several dozen and we are being able to tailor our therapies to the type of breast cancer every woman has.”
About 50 percent of all women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative, node-negative cancer. The current treatment options include oestrogen blocking drugs, with doses of chemotherapy. For those not to require chemotherapy, according to the new findings, they would have to be oestrogen-sensitive, test negative for HER2 and have very early stage tumours, which are below five centimetres.
The research followed over 10,000 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2006 and 2010. The women who were eligible to skip chemotherapy were then split into two groups, with one receiving hormone therapy with chemotherapy, and one who only received hormone therapy.
The women were followed for nine years, where results showed that 83.3% of those who were only receiving hormone therapy had not developed a recurrence or a second primary cancer, compared with the group that had chemotherapy as well as the hormone therapy, where the rate was just 84.3%, which in terms of research was not a statistically significant result. The survival rate was very similar as well. The former group was 93.9% and the latter, 93.8%.
Dr. Jeffrey Abrams, who is the associate director of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Therapy Evolution Program said;
“These findings, showing no benefit from receiving chemotherapy plus hormone therapy for most patients in this intermediate-risk group, will go a long way to support oncologists and patients in decisions about the best course of treatment.”
There has been research to suggest that premenopausal women might actually benefit from chemotherapy, regardless if they are in a group that suggests they do not, and this is because tumour can grow far more aggressively in these women. In cases like these, it is very important that the patient discusses their treatment plan with their oncologist to find out which course of action would be the most appropriate for them.