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Study Shows that Genetic Profiling Reveals Chemotherapy Unnecessary for Some Breast Cancer Patients

The advances in cancer treatments seem to be moving exponentially. A new study published by The New England Journal of Medicine found that many women with breast cancer may not require chemotherapy for a successful outcome. Researchers determined that nearly half of women with breast cancer who are at a high clinical risk may not, in fact, benefit from this type of treatment. These researchers analyzed the 70-gene signature test that has been shown to predict the clinical outcome in women with early-stage breast cancer. The stated goal of the study was to assess whether patients who were at high-risk clinically, but showed a low-risk genetic profile, benefit from receiving chemotherapy. As chemotherapy can cause permanent nerve damage, leukemia, heart failure, and other harsh side effects, avoiding this treatment, if unnecessary, would be highly advantageous to patient health.

The study found that the high-clinical risk, low-genetic risk women who did not receive chemotherapy had a rate of survival of 94.7% after five years – a difference in survival of only 1.5% from those receiving chemotherapy. These researchers concluded that as many as 46% of women with early-stage breast cancer who are at high clinical risk may not benefit from chemotherapy based on their genetic profiles. The report additionally stated that more research would be performed to elucidate the study’s findings, including determining whether the 1.5% survival difference would be upheld over a larger sample size.  

The conventional wisdom about cancer treatment modalities is constantly changing – and not just with regard to breast cancer. Unfortunately, among providers there is likely to be a huge variation as to their familiarity with what is the state of the art. Patients and their families need to remember this.

Read more from the New York Times here.


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