Chemotherapy can be avoided with common breast cancer

The study is thought to be the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever

Another, more sinister, aspect to these headlines is the potential to fuel myths and conspiracy theories about the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

That's because they don't really benefit from it, according to a study published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

More than two years on, she is cancer-free and says she has "gone back to normal everyday life", even enjoying strenuous hiking and kayaking trips.

A group of metastatic breast cancer experts has urged policymakers to empower patients with greater choice and participation in their treatment and care, to improve the quality of life of patients, their carers and families. Oncotype DX and other genomic tests have spurred a trend sure to accelerate following Sunday's report. But the researchers who conducted this new controlled experiment found that chemotherapy provided no additional benefit over hormone treatments alone.

The first patient to undergo the treatment, Judy Perkins, was diagnosed with incurable stage 4 breast cancer in 2013, ten years after undergoing a mastectomy for an earlier bout with the disease. The test, which has been on the market for several years, analyzes the activity of 21 genes to predict a woman's risk of recurrence over 10 years.

The current study involved more than 10,000 women and focused on those whose scores were in the middle range, from 11 to 25. Instead, doctors say the only treatment necessary is surgery and hormone therapy. The researchers tracked the patients' health outcomes over nine years.

"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. Twenty-five percent of those patients won't qualify for chemotherapy because of age or medical problems. "This has very important public health implications".

Carey pointed to some "grey areas" at the boundaries of the recurrance scores that need futher investigation, and said patients would need to discuss these details with their doctors before any decisions on treatement are made. Many women are also urged to undergo chemotherapy to help kill off any cancer cells that might have migrated from the tumour.

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According to various sites, a woman suffering from an advanced stage of breast cancer that had spread throughout her body was completely cleared off the disease.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said the "landmark study" was "fantastic news".

Yet the move away from chemotherapy has been hotly debated, with some doctors warning that chemo can save lives and that a "de-escalation" of treatment could be risky. Doctors know that most don't need it, but evidence is thin on who can forgo it.

"This [study] doesn't tell us chemotherapy is not effective in some cases". Now only about 60 percent of USA patients who could potentially benefit from it are taking the gene test, he says. After surgery, one group got endocrine therapy only, while the other was treated with endocrine therapy plus chemotherapy.

Albain is excited to share the study results with her clients in her practice.

It is estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 women in the United Kingdom are likely to avoid chemotherapy every year following the trial. "It's a technique done in a laboratory", she said.

Women aged 50 or younger were the notable exception. Patients should not make any changes to their treatment based off this study, and should always consult their doctors.

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