NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A major international study recently concluded that many women with early-stage breast cancer who normally would receive chemotherapy under current standards do not actually need it.
“We can spare thousands and thousands of women from getting toxic treatment that really wouldn’t benefit them,” said Dr. Ingrid A. Mayer, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, an author of the study. “This is very powerful. It really changes the standard of care.”
The study found that gene tests on tumor samples were able to identify women who could safely skip chemotherapy and take only a drug that blocks the hormone estrogen or stops the body from making it. The hormone-blocking drug tamoxifen and related medicines, called endocrine therapy, have become an essential part of treatment for most women because they lower the risks of recurrence, new breast tumors and death from the disease.
The findings and the subsequent changes in treatment protocols may apply to as many as 60,000 women a year in the United States.