Massive Study Shows Most Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer Can Forgo Chemotherapy

The findings will hopefully help women with early-stage breast cancer make better treatment decisions.

Apart from skin cancer, breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed among American women, Breastcancer.org reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's the most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women and the second most common cause of death from cancer among White, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Alaska Native/American Indian women.

While researchers are still working to find a cure, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has revealed that most women with early-stage breast cancer could safely skip chemotherapy without it negatively impacting their survival, recurrence, or remission.

Findings from the Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment (Rx), or TAILORx trial, "show no benefit from chemotherapy for 70 percent of women with the most common type of breast cancer."

What's more, the study found that "for women with hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative, axillary lymph node­–negative breast cancer, treatment with chemotherapy and hormone therapy after surgery is not more beneficial than treatment with hormone therapy alone."

The TAILORx trial consisted of three phases and began in 2006 in a quest to provide an answer about whether just using hormone therapy is as effective as using hormone therapy plus chemotherapy.

A whopping 10,273 women with early-stage, HR-positive, HER2-negative, axillary lymph node­–negative breast cancer at 1,182 locations in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Peru were enrolled in the study.

They were given a 21-gene expression test and assigned a risk score for cancer recurrence. Those with an intermediate range score were then randomly assigned whether they would receive only hormone therapy or hormone therapy and chemotherapy. 

The results were very similar in both groups. The study showed that five years after treatment, "the rate of invasive disease-free survival was 92.8 percent for those who had hormone therapy alone and 93.1 percent for those who also had chemotherapy."  

When things were analyzed at nine years, the rate was 83.3 percent for those who only had hormone therapy compared to 84.3 percent for individuals ho had both treatments. The study reported that none of these differences were considered "statistically significant."

TAILORx is considered one of the largest breast cancer trials to be completed and it's one of the first large-scale trials to assess personalizing cancer treatment. The conclusions will hopefully help breast cancer patients receive more personalized treatment.

USA Today reports the study's findings could affect up to 70,000 women a year in the United States alone plus thousands more around the world.

Joseph A. Sparano, M.D., the lead author of the study and associate director for clinical research at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center and Montefiore Health System in New York City and vice chair of the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group explains, "The new results from TAILORx give clinicians high-quality data to inform personalized treatment recommendations for women."

(H/T: Scary Mommy)

Cover image via  ESB Professional I Shutterstock

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