Licking cancer: US postal stamp helps fund key breast study


Across the European Union, we have seen positive results for breast cancer care as more women are being diagnosed and treated earlier, leading to higher survival rates. Generally, after surgery, such patients receive endocrine therapy, such as tamoxifen, which is created to block the cancer-spurring effects of hormones.

According to the TAILORx researchers, 260,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year around the world fall into the medium-risk category that wouldn't benefit from chemotherapy.

This is the largest study ever done on breast cancer treatment.

Dr Alistair Ring, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital in London, said: "I think this is a fundamental change in the way we treat women with early-stage breast cancer and will lead to a considerable number of women no longer needing to have chemotherapy".

To make this therapy the team first tested the tumour genetically and looked at the different properties of the cancer that would make it a target of the immune system.

Women with a score above 25 generally are given chemotherapy.

"With results of this groundbreaking study, we now can safely avoid chemotherapy in about 70 percent of patients who are diagnosed with the most common form of breast cancer", Dr. Albain said.

For women under 50 with a score of 0 to 15, chemo could be skipped.

This year, about 260,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected in women in the United States, and 41,000 deaths.

Through genetic testing, they separated women more likely to have recurrent cancer, which could potentially spare thousands from the treatment.

This is one more piece of information that will help form treatment plans, along with information like the patient's health history, her exact type of cancer, her stage of cancer, and her age.

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It saves lives, but side-effects of the toxic drugs range from vomiting, fatigue and infertility to permanent nerve pain.

Professor Boyle said several immunotherapy trials for triple negative breast cancer are about to start in Australia.

The patient had spent 10 years without cancer after having her left breast removed.

"But because this new approach to immunotherapy is dependent on mutations, not on cancer type, it is in a sense a blueprint we can use for the treatment of many types of cancer". The bottom line, Brufsky said, is that doctors now have a test to determine which early-stage patients - and that's a lot of them - can skip chemotherapy. They also have a score between 11 and 25 on the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test.

"Oncologists have been getting much smarter about dialing back treatment so that it doesn't do more harm than good", said Steven Katz, a University of MI researcher who examines medical decision-making.

"Because this is a huge study". Based on the pattern in which these genes are turned either on or off, the test produces a score between 0 and 100, which measures the woman's risk of developing breast cancer again in the future.

A leading Scottish breast cancer charity described the findings as "incredible" and "game-changing".

It follows trials of a genetic test that analyses the danger of a tumour.

Dr. Rimmer says the study shows that women in stage 1 or 2 of hormone receptor breast cancer and who are lymph node breast cancer negative, won't benefit from chemo if they're test results show their recurrence chances are low.

It found that Merck pharmaceutical's drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) - which famously helped former USA president Jimmy Carter stave off advanced melanoma that had spread to his brain - helped lung cancer patients live 4 to 8 months longer than chemo.