Almost 70 percent with common breast cancer could skip chemo, study says

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On Sunday, within hours of the trial results being presented at American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2018 meeting in Chicago, the 48-year-old emailed them to her doctor with this line: "This is good news for me".

"Half of all breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, and axillary node-negative", noted study author Dr. Joseph Sparano, who helps direct clinical research at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center in New York City.

The US team led by Dr Steven Rosenberg, from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, identified immune system T-cells within the cancerous breast tissue that were able to recognise and target four mutant tumour proteins.

"It feels miraculous, and I am beyond amazed that I have now been free of cancer for two years", Ms Perkins said.

Thousands of breast cancer patients may be safely spared gruelling chemotherapy following a landmark 10-year study in the US. Further research could mean sparing some higher-risk patients from chemotherapy. In addition, these early tumors must be sized at five centimeters or less and not invasive to the lymph nodes. Similar tests including one called MammaPrint also are widely used. The money was used to pay for the gene test, which costs more than $4,000 per person. The genetic testing gives cancer a "score" from 0 to 100.

The findings will lead to a "fundamental change" in how the disease is treated, a leading oncologist said.

The majority of women in early stages of this form of breast cancer had basically the same recurrence and survival rates whether they received chemo or not -- overall there were no significant differences, so chemo gave them no advantage.

If doctors adopt the study's findings, a lot of women could be affected.

That's great news, since the short-term side-effects of chemotherapy can include everything from nausea, hair loss, fatigue and infection, to numbness in hands and feet, and other symptoms.

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Breast cancer is also the most common cancer in the UK.

About 17 per cent of the women had scores that showed they were at high risk of recurrence so they were advised to take chemo. Women were separated into 2 groups, one receiving only hormone therapy, the other receiving chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Indeed, a genetic test can be done at the time of the operation to predict the risk of recurrence. In both groups 89% of women had survived the disease.

The new study of almost 7,000 women found that use of the already available Oncotype DX gene test could pinpoint those women who needed chemotherapy, and those who did not.

Judy Perkins, 49, had been given three months to live, but two years later there is no sign of cancer in her body. "It's exactly the sort of study that we need to make decisions about these genomic tests".

But there is a note of caution in interpreting the study's findings.

The study found that women over 50 scoring up to 25 did not need chemo, nor did women under 50 with a score up to 15. The results showed there might be a small benefit from chemotherapy. Some women 50 or younger, however, did see benefits from chemo.

Those women should carefully discuss their options with their oncologist, said Brawley, because they would likely be candidates for the more aggressive, dual therapies.

In past studies. doctors looked back at the data for patients in this third group and determined that they would benefit from chemotherapy.

These results provide assurance that getting gene tested is a valuable first step for patients with this type of breast cancer.