The breast cancer study focused on cases where chemo's value increasingly is in doubt: women with early-stage disease that has not spread to lymph nodes, is hormone-positive (meaning its growth is fueled by estrogen or progesterone) and is not the type that the drug Herceptin targets. "[Secondary treatment with] chemotherapy reduces the risk of recurrence..." Now research on more than 10,000 patients finds those mid-range women can safely be spared chemotherapy without affecting survival rates. Nine years after the treatment was administered, 93.8% were still alive in the chemo group, while 93.9% were still alive in the endocrine-only group. This confirms similar findings from earlier studies. The tumour is then assigned a "recurrence score" from 0 to 100 - the higher the score, the greater the chance the cancer will recur in other organs and decrease survival.
Moore says the study results are more clear for most women over 50 years of age.
One of the toughest decisions a woman with breast cancer will face is whether or not to undergo chemotherapy.
Dr. Newman said there is one caveat.
Fish oil supplements may help alleviate the painful side effects of some cancer treatments, research suggests. "The trial was created to address this question and provides a very definitive answer", said Dr. Sparano. And while it doesn't officially wrap up until Tuesday afternoon, the confab's already produced a flurry of news on the latest in cancer drug development, from updates on immune therapy R&D to the promise (and, importantly, the limitations) of newfangled treatments for a growing number of cancers.
But some of the more striking developments unveiled in the past week involve breast cancer.
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, some foundations and proceeds from the US breast cancer postage stamp.
Although the new findings are extremely promising for women who have early-stage breast cancer, the conclusions may not apply to those who have larger tumors or those battling cancer that has spread throughout the body. The stamp funding provided more than $5 million to the trial.
Researchers share preliminary and more advanced results. The extra 6 cents went for research - 70 percent to the Cancer Institute and 30 percent to the Department of Defense.
The genomic assay used in the trial was the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test from Genomic Health, Inc., Redwood City, California.