A Woman Has Been Cured Of Advanced Breast Cancer In World First

Associated Press

The TAILORx trial was created to help personalize treatment for women 18 to 75 years of age with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node (AN)-negative breast cancer whose tumors were 1.1 cm to 5.0 cm in size and who had a mid-range RS.

One of the big questions facing women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer is whether to be treated with chemotherapy to reduce their risks that the cancer will return.

All told, about 70 percent of women with this particular cancer - meaning more than 85,000 women a year in the United States - can safely forgo chemotherapy, the experts concluded.

This is one more piece of information that will help form treatment plans, along with information like the patient's health history, her exact type of cancer, her stage of cancer, and her age.

However, these are the results from a single patient and much larger trials will be needed to confirm the findings.

Peter Johnson, an oncology professor at the Cancer Research UK Centre, said the study confirmed the immune system can recognize some cancers, and "if this can be stimulated in the right way, even cancers that have spread to different parts of the body may be treatable".

The TAILORx trial used the Oncotype DX test, now available on the NHS, which allows doctors to predict the likelihood of the breast cancer coming back.

Women with cancer are given scores that come from genetic tests that analyze the tumors and look for the presence of 21 genes that have been associated with a high likelihood of recurrence. Those who score high-26 to 100-receive both hormone therapy and chemotherapy. Many women think "if I don't get chemotherapy I'm going to die, and if I get chemo I'm going to be cured", but the results show there's a sliding scale of benefit and sometimes none, he said.

"This new study really gives us good reliable data based on almost 7,000 patients, that if you have an intermediate risk score, you don't benefit from chemotherapy", said Dr. John Rimmer, Breast Cancer Surgeon. The therapy also displayed some impressively positive response rates, promising at the very least an extra possibility for patients where pre-existing treatments have failed.

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"It is a significant step because it is about avoiding a treatment that, for most people diagnosed with cancer, is what they all fear being suggested to have", he said. Until now, doctors didn't know for sure whether to offer chemotherapy to a large percentage of patients with early stage cancer.

The success, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, is all the more remarkable because breast cancers, like prostate and ovarian cancer, have relatively few mutations, which makes them harder for the immune system to spot amid the body's healthy tissues. The 67 percent of women who were at intermediate risk all had surgery and hormone therapy.

"The new results show that most women over 50, and who score within a given range, will not get any benefit from chemotherapy over and above hormonal therapy", Dr. Dana Abraham said, with Abraham Breast Clinic in Little Rock. But it has many torturing side-effects including vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, anemia, nerve pain and, in rare cases, heart failure and leukaemia. Now only about 60 percent of USA patients who could potentially benefit from it are taking the gene test, he says.

The team of researchers called this new immune therapy a "living drug" that is made up of the patient's own cells.

Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to reduce the chance of breast cancer spreading or coming back. Oncotype DX and other genomic tests have spurred a trend sure to accelerate following Sunday's report.

Researchers share preliminary and more advanced results.

It follows trials of a genetic test that analyses the danger of a tumour.

"For countless women and their doctors, the days of uncertainty are over".

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