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Breakthrough in breast cancer research
05 June 2018, 04:09 | Rodolfo Wallace
Further research will improve the range of therapies available to cancer patients
The team of researchers called this new immune therapy a "living drug" that is made up of the patient's own cells.
Lawrence knows all too well about this clinical trial that hundreds of women with early stages of breast cancer participated in.
Those patients: those diagnosed with early-stage, invasive, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer who scored in a specific range of a genetic test.
Around half of these patients would historically receive chemotherapy after having surgery to remove their tumour to prevent recurrence of the disease.
The success, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, is all the more remarkable because breast cancers, like prostate and ovarian cancer, have relatively few mutations, which makes them harder for the immune system to spot amid the body's healthy tissues.
All of the women in the study, called the Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment (Rx), or TAILORx, had their breast tumors analyzed with a molecular test.
"... Because this new approach to immunotherapy is dependent on mutations, not on cancer type, it is, in a sense, a blueprint we can use for the treatment of many types of cancer", said Dr. Steven Rosenberg, the chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research.
The test examines 21 genes from a patient's breast cancer biopsy sample to determine how active they are. Those who score high-26 to 100-receive both hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
About 17 percent of the women tested had high-risk scores and were advised to have chemotherapy. However the benefits were unclear for those who fall between which is the vast majority.
A new landmark medical study shows tens of thousands of women who are diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer every year may not need chemotherapy as a form of treatment. "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.
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Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: "This life-changing breakthrough is absolutely wonderful news as it could liberate thousands of women from the agony of chemotherapy".
"It's also highly significant that this outcome suggests reprogramming patients' immune cells as part of a two-pronged attack could be a viable way to treat ER-positive tumours - which could open this approach up to benefit many patients with metastatic breast cancer".
In recent years, many doctors have reduced their use of chemo, which can cause nausea, fatigue and, in rare cases, more serious complications such as leukemia and heart failure.
She added: "We hope to see NHS Scotland adopt this practice as soon as possible".
For Litton, the new study will make a tremendous difference in breast cancer treatment for many women. So, we used to say for that group of women, in terms of chemotherapy, "better safe than sorry".
Doctors in the U.S. combined two different forms of immunotherapy after conventional hormone treatments and chemotherapy failed.
The 21-gene test has been used since 2003. Thankfully, the results were extremely successful: the therapy completely wiped out the cancer cells, and two years later, doctors found no traces of cancerous cells inside her.
The latest results should mean more women can avoid chemotherapy, and its associated side effects, without compromising the effectiveness of their treatment. All had received a mid-range Oncotype DX score.
The same conference heard that the drug pembrolizumab, already approved for lung cancer, resulted in longer survival times and milder side-effects for non-small cell lung cancer patients than traditional chemotherapy treatment.
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