Breast Cancer

Study: Chemotherapy Not Always Best for Breast Cancer

Although many women with early-stage breast cancer are getting chemotherapy, the ones that decide against it appear to be more empowered about making a good decision, new research indicates.

The current guidelines for treating cancer that hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body have led to thousands of women receiving chemotherapy without benefiting from it.

A gene expression profiling (GEP) test can help differentiate women who might benefit from chemotherapy versus those that might not. The procedure analyzes 21 different genes within the cancer cells to help predict how likely it is that a women’s cancer will recur within 10 years after initial treatment and how beneficial chemotherapy will be.

Dr. Yvonne Bombard, a genomics and health services researcher in St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, said women she interviewed felt “empowered” by the test results.

 “Patients often viewed their GEP results as providing information that was more scientifically valid, uniquely personalized and emotionally significant than any other information they had received,” Dr. Bombard said. “For many, the test was a transformational element that….allowed them to feel confident in their decisions and may even have rescued them from unnecessary chemotherapy.”

Her findings were published in the journal Current Oncology.

Clinical guidelines suggest the majority of the 22,600 Canadians whose breast cancer tests negative for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) should be offered chemotherapy. Yet only 15 per cent of such cancers will recur, suggesting that about 8,500 Canadian patients are treated without benefit each year.

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