A recent study concludes that a large part of breast cancer sufferers can skip chemotherapy if their disease is at early stage.
A team of scientists found a way to determine the risk of breast cancer in patients with the help of a gene activity test. The test is very accurate. In fact, it identified a number of women with breast cancers that were unlikely to respond to chemotherapy, while the treatment could have exposed them to the adverse effects of the the anti-cancer drugs.
The participants who were advised to skip chemotherapy based on the gene activity test had less than 2% risk of cancer spreading to other organs, such as in the lungs or liver. Moreover, no signs of cancer spread was observed in the next five years. Joseph Sparano, leader of the study, doctor at Montefiore Medical Center, NYC, said that the study’s results are incontestable. Sparano said that there is no chance in the world chemotherapy could improve that number.
The gene test will help doctors find out whether they should focus on the chemotherapy’s benefits or side-effects for every patient individually.
The study’s results were published in the journal of New England Medice and it stirred up some excitement at the European Cancer Congress in Vienna. The experiment was funded by the National Cancer Institute.
The experiment only covered breast cancer in early stage, which is the most common form of the disease. In its early stage, the tumor’s growth is determined by the increasing levels of estrogen and progesterone.
In the United States, about 100,000 women are diagnosed with the disease. The usual treatment for breast cancer is surgery followed by a couple of years of drugs that are blocking estrogen and progesterone. However, many of the sufferers are also recommended to use chemotherapy in order to destroy any cancer cells that could not be removed by surgery.
Although doctors are aware that chemotherapy will not help most of the women they have to recommended them to use it because there is no way to tell if their body is free of stray cancer cells.
Currently, the test – called Oncotype DC – costs a little bit over $4,000 and is covered by most insurers. Researchers hopes that the new study will gain some attention and encourage more women who suffer of breast cancer to take it.
Photo credits: Wikimedia