Study: many breast cancer patients can skip chemo - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Study: many breast cancer patients can skip chemo

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(Image Courtesy: MGN Online) (Image Courtesy: MGN Online)

Thousands of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer may be able to skip chemotherapy.

Baystate Medical Center took part in the study and the implications are huge.  

Researchers said that for about 70 percent of women diagnosed early with breast cancer, chemo may not be necessary.

Funded by the National Cancer Institute, Baystate Medical Center took part in the decade-long study released on Sunday.

"At Baystate, we do work hard to participate in these multi-institution trials," said Dr. Holly Mason with Baystate Breast Services.

Mason told Western Mass News that it is the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever conducted. 

"This is a very big study.  We've been waiting for the results to come out.  It's going to change treatment for many of our women for the better," Mason explained. 

Researchers said that this could affect some 70,000 women a year in the U.S. estimated to fall into a certain category of breast cancer patients.

"The patients that this would apply to are patients that have cancers that use hormones - the estrogen and progesterone hormones - as a source of fuel, who's tumors are less than five centimeters and who's nodes are negative," Mason added.

Patients also must fall between a certain number on what's called the Breast Recurrence Score. 

"There are some patients who's scores are really high and we know that there is absolutely a benefit to chemotherapy.  There are patients who's scores are really low and we knew there was no benefit at all to chemotherapy and then there was this middle ground and we really didn't know what to do with those patients," Mason said. 

This study, Mason said, is a game changer for that group in the middle.

"The research that has just come out tells us, in that subset of patients, as long as you're over the age of 50, if you're in what's called the intermediate risk recurrence score, that you can safely avoid chemotherapy," Mason noted. 

Mason said that applying the specific guidelines of the study are critical and can begin immediately.

Researchers stress that while 70 percent of women with early-stage breast cancer do not benefit from chemotherapy, the 30-percent of women for whom chemotherapy does benefit can be lifesaving.

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