11-06-18 Good news for many breast cancer patients

Photo courtesy American Heart Association

The majority of patients with the most common type of breast cancer do not benefit from chemotherapy after surgery according to a comprehensive study.

A decade long multi-center study by the ECOG-ACRIN Research Group, involving 10,273 women with early-stage cancer at 1,182 treatment sites across USA, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Peru, showed conclusively that chemotherapy was unnecessary in 70% of cases.

The Stage-3 Trial findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week following the trial leader’s presentation to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.

Unlike many published clinical trial results which require many years of further study before findings are confirmed and validated, this trial’s results will have an immediate impact on global treatment practice for early-stage breast cancer.

Dr. Alistair Ring, a consultant oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital, London, was upbeat about the potentially immediate impact on breast cancer treatment in the NHS. “I think this is a fundamental change in the way we treat women with early-stage breast cancer and will lead to a considerable number of women no longer needing to have chemotherapy.”

Up to 5,000 women in UK could now avoid the harrowing side effects from the toxic drugs used in chemotherapy, if this life-changing refinement of early-stage breast cancer treatment is followed across the NHS.

Until now, post-operative treatment included hormone therapy plus chemotherapy for women diagnosed with early-stage HR-positive, HER2-negative, axillary lymph node-negative breast cancer. This therapy combination was administered to these patients to inhibit cancer recurrence.  However the trial showed that invasive disease-free survival after treatment was almost statistically the same, whether patients had the combination therapy or hormone therapy alone.

There is an additional bonus this refined post-operative cancer treatment of hormone-only therapy will have for healthcare systems around the world: lower costs!

The NHS is struggling with the spiraling costs of cancer drugs used in chemotherapy. These drug costs inhibit the ability of an underfunded NHS to adequately invest in other cancer services.

Further Reading

 New England Journal of Medicine

Adjuvant Chemotherapy Guided by a 21-Gene Expression Assay in Breast Cancer

National Cancer Institute Press Release

TAILORx Trial result

ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group

Multi-national network of participating institutions.

 CBS News

Many breast cancer patients can safely skip chemotherapy, study finds.

BBC News

Cancer drugs price rise ‘costing NHS millions’

 

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