Experimental treatment could be breast cancer breakthrough

Proceeds from the U.S. Postal Service's breast cancer stamp put researchers over the top when they were trying to get enough money to do the landmark study

The patients' tumors were analyzed using a test called Oncotype DX, which examines the activity of 21 genes to predict the risk of a recurrence over 10 years.

The second study tested a form of immunotherapy against chemo, in the most common lung cancer worldwide, known as non-small-cell lung cancer.

Prior to the study, Doctors knew that women in early stages of estrogen positive breast cancer with low risk scores did not need chemotherapy, but there was a gray area for women over 50.

Researchers say, the results allowed them to separate women who would benefit from chemotherapy due to a higher risk of recurrent breast cancer, and those who tested at a lower risk and do not need chemo for treatment.

Those who score 26 or higher on the scale do benefit and now receive chemotherapy.

Thousands of breast cancer patients may be safely spared gruelling chemotherapy following a landmark study.

Now, it's much more common to tackle the disease with gene-targeting therapies, hormone blockers and immune system treatments.

The study is the largest ever done of breast cancer treatment.

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The 52-year-old structural engineer had a mastectomy after she was diagnosed in 2003, but a decade later, she found out the cancer had spread and was given a few years to live. Once collected, the cells are armed with cancer-recognizing molecules so that when they are reintroduced into the patient's body they can home in on the tumors and kill them off.

Dr Ring said the trial's reuslts would likely have an immediate impact on United Kingdom practice and represented a significant shake-up in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer. These included hormone-driven breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Nevertheless, hormone-receptor-positive cancers often come back years after surgery, which has encouraged the use of chemotherapy.

Now, women diagnosed in the early stages have more treatment options available to them.

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.

Albain said research is ongoing, as scientists are now exploring questions about what types of chemotherapy might be effective on various groups based on their genomics, and what will happen to the participants of the clinical trial as even more time passes. "I had a bucket-list of things I needed to do before the end, like going to the Grand Canyon", she added.

According to first author Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY, "any woman with early-stage breast cancer 75 or younger should have the test and discuss the results" with her doctor. "While this practice has contributed to declining rates in breast cancer mortality, "...the majority of patients may receive chemotherapy unnecessarily". But they tend to work best on cancers that are influenced by environmental factors and are driven by lots of mutated genes.

Harold Burstein, a breast cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said that in some ways the debate over de-escalation misses a larger issue.

"The treatment sometimes makes you sicker than the disease", Tuttle said. "We want to give the right amount", he said.

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