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New Gene Test Allows Many Early-State Breast Cancer Patients to Forgo Chemo

By BCRF | October 8, 2015

Alleviating Overtreatment and Advancing Personalized Treatment Options for Breast Cancer Patients

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) finds that 99% of women with a low score on the gene test, Oncotype DX®, can forego chemotherapy.

The TAILORx study, led by BCRF grantee Dr. Joseph Sparano on behalf of the NCI-designated cooperative group ECOG-ACRIN, comprises more than 10,000 women from six different countries with early-stage breast cancer and is the largest adjuvant breast cancer trial ever performed. As described in the Washington Post, women who skipped chemo based on their test results had less than 1 percent chance of a recurrence in distant organs such as the liver or lungs within the next five years. 

Prior to the study, it was difficult to predict which patients would or would not benefit from chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is typically recommended for most patients after surgery to kill any stray cancer cells that may have spread beyond the breast and could develop into a new cancer later.

Now, based on the study, some patients may be able to forgo chemotherapy and avoid the side effects, toxicity and costs associated with it. Testing an individual’s tumor biology to determine treatment options will help alleviate overtreatment and further advance personalized medicine.

Using the gene test “lets us focus our chemotherapy more on the higher risk patients who do benefit” and spare others the ordeal, said Dr. Clifford Hudis, BCRF's Scientific Advisory Board Chairman. “The future is bright.” 

Read the full study in NEJM.

Read Dr. Hudis’ editorial in NEJM.