A large amount of breast cancer patients undergo chemotherapy when they don’t really need it, according to the results of a recently-released clinical trial.
A breast-cancer test called MammaPrint has revealed that nearly half of all women who were meant to undergo chemotherapy, based on a clinical trial’s assessment, did not actually need treatment that severe.
Doctors typically estimate whether chemotherapy is necessary for breast cancer patients by measuring the size of their tumor. They do this by examining cells under a microscope and using hormone therapy to examine a tumor’s response to it.
The MammaPrint test measures the activity of cancerous cells through genomic testing. It examines the activity of 70 different genes and calculates a “score” which determines either a high risk or low risk of developing breast cancer, says co-researcher Laura van ‘t Veer.
“Our test looks under the hood, at the engine of the tumor,” she said. “The biology tells more about the tumor than simply examining its size, because you’re really looking into the tumor.”
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The study revealed that breast cancer patients who had MammaPrint scores which advised against chemotherapy (low risk) had a 95% survival rate after having their tumors removed, according to van ‘t Veer.
“That’s very high, and we showed that it doesn’t differ between those who are treated and those who are not treated by chemotherapy,” said van ‘t Veer.
This new information may provide insight into the actual necessity of chemotherapy treatments, according to Dr. Jose Baselga, president of the American Association for Cancer Research.
“This study is telling us in a very clear way we can spare many women chemotherapy,” Baselga said.
Using chemotherapy to treat cancer has been under heavy criticism after it was revealed that low survival rates and deadly side effects were often associated with its use. For more information on the effects of chemotherapy, click here.
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