There is big news in breast cancer research. Results of the TAILORx study were released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that many women with the most common type of early breast cancer may not need to be treated with chemotherapy.
Huge news? Yes, for a lot of women. The possibility of avoiding the serious side-effects of chemotherapy is a big deal.
But with every new study, it’s critical look past the headlines to understand the specifics of the study and how it applies to the real world of treating breast cancer. So, let’s break it down.
What did the study find?
Women with early-stage breast cancer that is hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative and node-negative and have a mid-range Oncotype DX recurrence score (RS) do not need chemotherapy after surgery. According to the study’s authors, chemotherapy can be avoided in about 70% of women with this type of breast cancer.
It’s important to remember, this group of women should still treat their breast cancer hormone therapy.
What about young women with breast cancer?
The numbers are a little different for women under 50. For this group, the cut-off point to forgo chemo is an RS score of 15, (compared to an RS score of 25 for women over 50). This means about 40% of women under 50 with this type of breast cancer could be spared chemotherapy.
Researcher have speculated that the chemotherapy suppression of the ovaries and their hormone production may explain the small benefit observed in younger women with RS 16 – 25.
What is Oncotype DX?
It’s a genomic test that looks at the tumour’s gene expression. It helps predict the likelihood of the cancer recurring and which patients are most likely to derive a large benefit from chemotherapy. Before this study, patients with a mid-range score (10 – 26) were given chemo as a precaution.
Rethink was very involved in advocating for government funding of Oncotype DX in a number of Canadian provinces. If you’re diagnosed with early-stage hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negatvie, node negative breast cancer, ask about your Oncotype DX test score when you talk to your oncologist about your treatment plan.
What does this mean for breast cancer patients now?
This research is another great leap towards more personalized cancer treatment – this continues to be the way of the future. But along with that, it’s important to remember that the findings don’t apply to every type of breast cancer or every patient. It’s simply not a one-size-fits-all approach. As always, if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s important to talk with your doctor about what treatment plan is right for your type of cancer.