Good news for some women diagnosed with breast cancer. New research shows chemotherapy may no longer be needed. The long-awaited study published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine followed nearly 10,000 women for nine years. It revealed most women with small tumors whose cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes did just as well with only hormone therapy as patients who received that treatment plus chemotherapy.
Dr. Celesteann Bremer, a Hematologist-Oncologist with Virginia Oncology Associates told CBN News the study results will change cancer treatment going forward. "This is definitely good news," she said, "This study is something we've been waiting for several years to give us some direction as to where to go with patients."
Chemotherapy, while an effective cancer fighter, often causes serious side effects such as weakened immunity, bone loss, and other problems.
"There is, of course, the issue with hair loss, nausea, vomiting, the ongoing fatigue," Dr. Bremer said, adding, "The changes day to day how it makes you feel."
Breast cancer doctors regularly test 21 genes to rank the risk of the patient's cancer returning. Lower scores mean the risk is slight. Typically those patients are only treated with estrogen-blocking hormone therapy. High scores mean the risk is greater for the cancer to return and those patients should be treated with both hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
However, when it comes to the patients who score in the middle range, an estimated 70,000 women, doctors questioned which treatment is best: hormone therapy alone or hormone therapy plus chemo.
The new study suggests most patients who fall in the middle range can be treated with just hormone therapy. There are some exceptions, though.
"Women under the age of 50, even if they score in the mid-range, might benefit most from hormone therapy and chemotherapy," Dr. Bremer said, "because often the cancer is more aggressive in women who have not gone through menopause yet."