Experimental breast cancer treatment allows Florida woman to return to normal life

Faith Castro
June 6, 2018

"For countless women and their doctors, the days of uncertainty are over", said Dr Kathy Albain, oncologist at the Loyola University Health System, and a co-author of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine simultaneously with its presentation at ASCO.

The test examines the activity of 21 genes of breast cancer tissue and assigns it a score between 0 and 100. Her hair fell out, she developed an infection and was hospitalized for a low white blood cell count, "but it was over fairly quickly and I'm really glad I had it".

After tumor removal, genetic testing is commonly used to predict which type of chemotherapy would give the most benefit.

"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.

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

But before this study came out, many people in this group were prescribed chemotherapy because doctors had, based on the best information available, assumed it would help them. And while this finding certainly doesn't eliminate chemotherapy as a viable tool, it very likely means that a huge number of patients will have the opportunity to receive more personally-tailored treatments in the future.

It's one of a few branded tests that have been developed for this objective and is recommended for use in the United Kingdom by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellent (NICE).

The cancer in question is driven by hormones, has not spread to the lymph nodes and doesn't contain a protein called HER2.

How does the study fit into the debate over "de-escalating" treatment of early-stage breast cancer?

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The results are a part of the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever conducted, according to the Washington Post. After an average of nine years, 83.3% of those who did not undergo chemotherapy remained cancer-free, compared to 84.3% of those given chemo. It's called the Oncotype DX test.

The new results demonstrate that chemotherapy is not beneficial for most women in the intermediate risk group, the researchers said in a statement.

In some cases, the results will go on to change how patients are treated.

And while celebrating this genuine advance, we should remember just how far we have to go in finding effective therapies for metastatic breast cancer, and other breast cancer subtypes for which treatment options are still limited.

His excitement was echoed by Tom Misteli, director of cancer research at the US National Cancer Institute.

"At lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy - a unique drug for every cancer patient - it is very different to any other kind of treatment".

Gilead shares gained as much as 3.7 percent on Monday, and were up 1.9 percent to $69.60 at 11:16 a.m.in NY. Key secondary end points included freedom from recurrence of breast cancer at a distant site, freedom from recurrence of breast cancer at a distant or local-regional site, and overall survival (OS).

Brawley noted that the reduction in chemotherapy might reduce revenues for some oncologists, but he doesn't think they'll care.

The success of this case has raised hopes that the therapy could also be used to treat advanced ovarian and prostate cancers.

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