‘Terminal’ breast cancer wiped out by new treatment

Lynette PayneJun 07, 2018

The good news for around 70,000 women each year comes from the largest study done of breast cancer treatment.

"We all don't need cookie cutter medicine for things", said 20-year breast cancer survivor Alesa Garner. "They really had to pass the hat around", said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who had no role in the study but is familiar with its funding history. "These results will inform clinical decision-making and in future many women with certain types of early-stage breast cancer can avoid chemotherapy, without impacting on the success of their treatment".

If the woman's score is 16 or higher and she is premenopausal, "then we're going to want to give her the chemotherapy", said Brawley.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the world, and hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-negative cancer constitutes about half of the 1.7 million cases diagnosed yearly worldwide.

The challenge so far in cancer immunotherapy is it tends to work spectacularly for some patients, but the majority do not benefit.

His excitement was echoed by Tom Misteli, director of cancer research at the US National Cancer Institute. Many women are also urged to undergo chemotherapy to help kill off any cancer cells that might have migrated from the tumour.

Following 10,273 women who had the most common type of breast cancer, researchers examined outcomes for the 69 per cent of patients who scored between 11 - 25 on the test. She had "tennis ball-sized tumors" in her liver and secondary cancers throughout her body, as reported by the BBC.

Cancer Trials Ireland CEO, Eibhlin Mulroe, added that the fact that so many women in Ireland were able to take part in this trial "demonstrates the world-class capability of our unique network of cancer trials research units spread across Ireland".

The researchers did find that some patients who were diagnosed at age 50 or younger and whose risk scores were on the higher end of the mid-range did benefit from chemotherapy. "Now that we know many of these women can safely avoid chemotherapy, we can spare them the physical and emotional effects that chemotherapy can have".

The current study involved more than 10,000 women and focused on those whose scores were in the middle range, from 11 to 25.

A WOMAN appears to have been cured of advanced drug-resistant breast cancer after doctors harnessed her own immune system to fight the disease. Newer care includes gene-targeting therapies, hormone blockers and immune system treatments. And even though Oncotype DX came out in 2004, the experiments that showed chemotherapy helping people with some results of the tests weren't published until 2015.

Now, after an infusion of billions of cancer-killing immune cells, and having been given a life expectancy of just a few months, there is no sign of cancer in her body - a "complete, durable regression" in the words of the scientists that developed the therapy.

Women at low risk could skip chemo. Patients should not make any changes to their treatment based off this study, and should always consult their doctors.

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

The Oncotype DX genetic test has been available on the NHS since 2013, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is now updating its guidance on whether it should be recommended for use.

About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.

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