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Good news has been reported for those with early-stage breast cancer: Chemotherapy might not be necessary, according to a recent study, called TAILORx. The study followed nearly 7,000 breast cancer patients, 70 of whom participated at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, from 2006-2011.
The study found that a gene test, called Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay, could identify patients who could forego chemotherapy and take only medication to block estrogen or stop its production. While life-saving, chemotherapy can have side effects ranging from hair loss and nausea to heart and nerve damage or infection.
"It's going to save tens of thousands of people from having to take unnecessary chemotherapy,” said Dr. Thomas Butler, senior staff medical oncologist and associate professor of interdisciplinary clinical oncology at Mitchell Cancer Institute.
The findings could make a difference for women who have early-stage breast cancer, with tumors one to five centimeters in size and that has not spread to the lymph nodes. The patients should also be hormone receptor positive and HER2-negative.
For the TAILORx study, the women were randomized into two groups: One received hormone therapy with chemotherapy, and the other received strictly hormone therapy. Researchers then followed the women for an average of nine years to determine recurrence and survival rates. No significant difference was found between the two groups.
Currently, 21 of MCI’s patients enrolled in the study are still in follow-up, Butler said. “All of these patients who participated in this can look back now and say, ‘I may have had chemotherapy, possibly unnecessarily, but I helped somebody else in the future,’” he said.
Mitchell Cancer Institute, an academic cancer research and treatment facility, offers about 45 clinical trials to patients, including Phase I, Phase II and Phase III trials. To find out whether you could qualify for a clinical trial, call Mitchell Cancer Institute at 251-665-8000.
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