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Women With Early Stage Breast Cancer Can Skip Chemo, Study Says

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ROCKVILLE, MD (CBS Local) - A groundbreaking study has concluded that most women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer can avoid going through chemotherapy thanks to a new genetic treatment.

The Details:

  • A new study suggests that women with early stage breast cancer can avoid chemotherapy
  • Over 10,000 women were studied for nine years and found no major difference in their survival rates
  • Patients not using chemotherapy were given an estrogen-blocking gene therapy

"Our study shows that chemotherapy may be avoided in about 70 percent of these women when its use is guided by the test, thus limiting chemotherapy to the 30 percent of women we can predict will benefit from it," lead author Dr. Joseph Sparano said, via The Independent.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) examined over 10,000 breast cancer patients and found that women who were treated with an estrogen-blocking hormone therapy had a nearly identical survival rate to women treated with chemo and hormone therapy.

The results - which tracked the patients over nine years of treatment - was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 3. "Chemotherapy has saved a tremendous amount of lives, and will continue to do so," Dr. José Baselga said, via NPR. "But we need to be precise on when to use it and who to recommend it to. The era of one-size-fits-all is basically coming to an end, which is great news."

In the nine years of the study, 93.9 percent of the patients only using hormone therapy survived breast cancer. Patients using both types of treatment had an overall survival rate of 93.8 percent.

Physicians are hailing the study as a major breakthrough that will help women avoid the devastating side-effects of chemo which include hair loss, infertility, pain, and possibly death. "Its findings will greatly expand the number of patients who can forgo chemotherapy without compromising their outcomes. We are de-escalating toxic therapy," study co-author Dr. Kathy Albain added.

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