Medicine

Milestone immunotherapy treatment cures terminal breast cancer patient

Milestone immunotherapy treatment cures terminal breast cancer patient

"For the entire study population with gene test scores between 11 and 25 - and especially among women aged 50 to 75 - there was no significant difference between the chemotherapy and no chemotherapy groups", said the findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, most breast cancer occurs in older women.

Steven Rosenberg, who is leading the ongoing clinical trial, suggests this is an exciting early result, highlighting that this kind of treatment is not cancer-type specific but can be applied to a broad variety of different cancers.

"I hit the jackpot", said Perkins, who is now 52 and cancer-free more than two years later.

The method was conducted via a recurrence score based on the 21-gene breast cancer which predicts chemotherapy benefit if it is high and a low risk of recurrence in the absence of chemotherapy if it is low, the researchers explained.

But before this study came out, many people in this group were prescribed chemotherapy because doctors had, based on the best information available, assumed it would help them.

An experimental new therapy for advanced breast cancer is being hailed as a "paradigm shift" in treating the disease. For context, about 12.4% of women in the US-or about 20 million-will likely develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Twenty-five percent of those patients won't qualify for chemotherapy because of age or medical problems.

A decade-long study revealed that women who take a cancer recurrence gene test and yield results of low or intermediate risk of cancer recurrence - which effects more than 85,000 women a year - can forego chemotherapy altogether, according to CNN.

Oncotype DX is becoming more standard.

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For those who fall in between - which includes most women - there was no clear evidence on whether they need chemotherapy.

"I think this is a very significant advance", said Dr Larry Norton, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY. About 84 percent also had no signs of cancer, so chemo treatment had no impact.

Dr. Lisa Carey, a breast specialist at the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said she would be very comfortable advising patients to skip chemo if they were like those in the study who did not benefit from it.

"My condition deteriorated a lot towards the end, and I had a tumour pressing on a nerve, which meant I spent my time trying not to move at all to avoid pain shooting down my arm", Ms Perkins said.

- You think that when a woman gets breast cancer, chemo is the go-to treatment. But in recent years, as many doctors concluded that women with early-stage cancer were being over-treated, they have reduced their use of chemotherapy, which can cause nausea, fatigue and, in rare cases, more serious complications such as leukemia and heart failure. The therapy also displayed some impressively positive response rates, promising at the very least an extra possibility for patients where pre-existing treatments have failed.

"We have been using Oncotype DX for some years now among women in tumours that are less than 4 cm with no axillary lymph nodes, estrogen progesterone receptor positive and HER 2 new negative".

The findings say women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely forego chemotherapy without hurting their chances of a full recovery. "If we are going to take a step back" from chemotherapy, he said, "we really had to be sure".