News from Illinois CancerCare

New Report finds most women with a common type of early-stage breast cancer can skip chemo

Recent research has found that most women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of beating the disease.  This landmark study, recently published in the New England School of Medicine shows that most women will not need treatment beyond surgery and hormone therapy.

“This study is a great step forward in the treatment of breast cancer as it answers the question about the risk of the majority of intermediate risk breast cancer patients,” said Dr. Madhuri Bajaj of Illinois CancerCare.  “Breast cancer treatment will be guided through the use of genetic testing which will provide us better insight and help us identify women who can safely skip chemotherapy.”

This international research project was the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever conducted and included approximately 10,000 participants.  The findings showed women at low or intermediate risk of breast cancer recurrence may safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of survival.  Illinois CancerCare enrolled a number of patients in this study.

The cancer in question is driven by hormones, has not spread to the lymph nodes and does not contain a protein called HER2. Generally, after surgery, such patients receive endocrine therapy, such as tamoxifen, which is designed to block the cancer-spurring effects of hormones.

The gene test, called Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay, is the focus of the study. It is performed on tumor samples after surgery, to help determine whether chemo would help. The test is generally done for early-stage disease, not more advanced tumors that clearly need chemo because they have spread to lymph nodes or beyond.

“We want to be able to provide the right amount of treatment to the tumor based on its composition.  This testing will allow us to properly treat the patient without compromising their health with the use of unnecessary chemotherapy,” said Bajaj.