NY Requirements - Blog
Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a number of breast cancer patients don’t need to suffer through daunting chemotherapy in order to effectively treat their cancer.
The test identified women in the early stages of breast cancer who tested as “low risk” for cancer returning and 99 percent of the low risk cases who skipped chemotherapy were able to successfully treat their cancer through surgery and hormone therapy drugs alone.
Oncotype DX is the test that doctors have been using since 2004 to test tumor genes and predict how aggressively cancer may return. It also is used to detect how a patient's cancer will respond to hormone therapy and the likelihood that it will return at all post cancer treatment.
However, doctors didn’t have hard data nor evidence that this tool could effectively predict the success rate of treatment without chemotherapy for certain patients until now.
In this five year study, over 10,200 women in the early stages of cancer (which hadn’t spread to their lymph nodes yet) were enlisted for the study.
Their cancers were tested using Oncotype DX and the results were interpreted on a 100 point scale. Sixteen percent of the women scored below 11, which put them in the category of “low risk”. Sixty-seven percent of the women were between 11 - 25, which is categorized as intermediate, while the remainder, who had a 26 or higher were considered high risk.
The low risk patients weren’t given chemo, while some of the intermediate patients were given chemo and others were not. All of the high risk patients however received chemo.
A hormone blocking drug regimen and surgery were able to prevent cancer relapse in 99 percent of the low risk cases, with 94 percent being cancer free after 5 years, but researchers are continuing to track the intermediate risk patients in the study to determine whether chemotherapy may be unnecessary for those who fall into that category.
There is much more research that needs to be done before doctors can determine the success rates of non-chemo treatments with patients outside of the low risk category.
Still, more than 100,000 are diagnosed at the early stages of breast cancer annually, so it’s great news that a certain sect of those patients can confidently skip chemo without worrying.