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Some Women With Early Stage Breast Cancer Have Cause to Rejoice

It’s been found in a recent study some women who are discovered to have early stage breast cancer can avoid treatment of their cancer with chemo therapy.

The story which first appeared New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) showed women could likely forgo rounds of Chemo treatment and instead rely on hormone based drugs to treat breast cancer.

Not only could they avoid chemo, they could also experience a 98% survival rate at 5 years as well as experiencing a  93.8% chance of being free of invasive breast cancer.

The study indicates it’s not all women who are going to be the ones lucky enough to skip out on chemo, just those with a certain gene type.

According to Time Magazine:

The key to identifying these women lies with a gene-based test called Oncotype Dx, which scans 21 genes in the tumor to create a dossier of the tumor’s strengths and weaknesses. The information helps doctors to determine how potentially aggressive, or not, a tumor might be.

Allowed on the market as a clinical laboratory test in 2004, it produces a recurrence score from 0 to 100 and helps doctors determine whether women should be treated with chemotherapy. Lower scores generally indicate that hormone-based drug therapies are enough, while higher recurrence scores push physicians to consider chemotherapy to lower the risk of the cancer returning.

Doctors don’t yet know what the limit of recurrence scores and hormone treatment might be. That’s why in their new test, the TAILOR x test they sought to determine just how effective hormone treatment would be on a variety of breast tumors.

In the TAILORx test physicians went after all tumors with a score of 11 or below  to establish how well hormone therapy on those tumors would do

And the findings are quite promising.

Time writes:

In the Tailor X study 10,253 women diagnosed with breast cancer that possessed hormone receptors (meaning the tumors would respond to hormone therapies) but had not spread to their lymph nodes and were anywhere from 1 cm to 1.5 cm in size. The tumors ranged from low grade, which are not as aggressive, to higher grade cancers, which tend to grow faster and contain more abnormal cells. Current guidelines suggest that younger women diagnosed with such breast tumors, or women with larger and higher grade tumors, receive both hormone therapy and chemotherapy to prevent recurrence.

But TAILORx randomly assigned women with an Oncotype Dx recurrence score of less than 11 to just take hormone therapy alone, and skip the chemo. About 16% of the women in the study fell into this category, and after five years, they did remarkably well. Not only did 99% of them survive to five years, but they had a less than 2% risk of having a recurrence either locally or in other parts of the body.

 The researchers admit they might be able to bump the score up in the future.

They say from their understanding tumors after a score of 11 tend to be more aggressive and so they imagine chemo is better for those kinds of tumors.

In an effort to see how more aggressive tumors respond the researchers have an ongoing study featuring women whose scores fall anywhere from 11-25 (where 70 % of all breast cancer sufferers fall).

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