In Cancer Treatments, Less Is Sometimes More

In Cancer Treatments, Less Is Sometimes More

The two groups, taken together, account for about 70 percent of women diagnosed with the most common type of breast cancer.

The study was published June 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A U.S. woman with advanced breast cancer is healthy again after taking part in an experimental treatment, using her body's own immune system to wipe out the tumours.

"The study should have a huge impact on doctors and patients", Dr. Kathy Albain, a hematologist/oncologist at Loyola Medicine in IL and a study co-author, said in a press release.

"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, as cited by The New York Times.

Experts believe the 52-year-old's case could offer a blueprint to help the body's natural defenses eradicate other cancers.

The majority of women in the study of more than 10,000 - who had an early stage form of the common type of breast cancer that affects tens of thousands of women - showed no extra benefit from chemotherapy treatments added to standard treatment alone.

An experimental therapy that extracts and multiplies powerful immune-system cells from inside tumors eradicated a patient's breast cancer, a scientific first that could lead to new ways of treating malignancies that have resisted all other efforts.

A sample of the tumour is tested after surgery for 21 genetic markers, which indicate if it could grow and spread.

It works by looking at the activity levels of 21 genes, which are markers of how aggressive the cancer is.

Sunday's results came from a federally sponsored trial called TailorX, which was created to help doctors more precisely tailor treatments for early-stage breast cancer.

It follows trials of a genetic test that analyses the danger of a tumour. The 67 percent of women who were at intermediate risk all had surgery and hormone therapy. "The gray area has been the mid-range RS score of 11 to 25-this target population accounts for about 50% of women in the United States", Soprano said.

This was particularly true for women between the ages of 50 and 75.

Data on premenopausal women and those younger than 50 who scored at the higher end of the intermediate-risk range, 16 to 25, was analyzed separately.

Dr. Jennifer Litton at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, agreed, but said: "Risk to one person is not the same thing as a risk to another".

The treatment, which succeeded after all other conventional treatments had failed, marks the first successful application of T-cell immunotherapy for late-stage breast cancer. She also had new drugs to overcome a cancer's ability to shield itself from the immune system.

For many patients, it's a hard choice to decide whether to go through chemotherapy.

Among the immediate effects are nausea, hair loss, and reduced blood counts.

"Chemotherapy is not without its own risks", said Jacoub. Similar tests including one called MammaPrint may also be used. Genes are either off or on. "You want to bring the right amount of treatment to the tumor based on its biology", he said.

While chemo can be greatly helpful to some patients, it has a significant number of drawbacks and serious side effects.

"You can get them to the same place... without side effects and toxicity", he said.

Perkins underwent several rounds of chemotherapy but the cancer kept spreading and doctors gave her just months to live.

However, he noted the treatment would probably not work for everyone, and that further successful trials will be necessary before it can be rolled out widely.