Published: Tue, June 05, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Automatic texting helps ease stress of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients

Automatic texting helps ease stress of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society said that he was "delighted" by the study and anxious about unnecessary cancer treatment and the side effects that come from chemotherapy. "I've been anxious for a long time about unnecessary treatment for cancer, and unnecessary side effects from chemotherapy".

"Now with these genomic tests, we are finding that we have multiple types of breast cancer, perhaps several dozen", Brawley said. About 50 percent of all women diagnosed worldwide have hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative, node-negative cancer.

The US trial involved almost 10,000 women with a common type of early stage breast cancer called hormone receptor positive breast cancer, which has not spread beyond the breast. Oncotype DX costs around $4,000, which Medicare and many insurers cover. Similar tests including one called MammaPrint also are widely used.

The trial results showed that for women in the intermediate recurrence score group, endocrine therapy was no less effective than hormone therapy plus chemotherapy at prolonging disease-free survival.

While the United Kingdom papers generally covered the facts of the research well, some of the headlines gave a misleading impression that the findings applied to many more women with breast cancer than is the case.

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"At lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy - a unique drug for every cancer patient - it is very different to any other kind of treatment."

Other less common but more serious side effects of chemotherapy include bone loss and osteoporosis, heart and vision problems.

Dr. Lisa Carey, a breast specialist at the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said she would be very comfortable advising patients to skip chemo if they were like those in the study who did not benefit from it. Based on their versions of these genes, the women were given scores assessing their recurrence risk from 0 to 100. What the researchers wanted to know was whether chemotherapy was beneficial or necessary to women with scores in the middle range, as there is more uncertainty in this group. At the end of that time they found 83.3% of those on hormone therapy alone had not developed a recurrence or a second primary cancer.

Cancer care has been evolving away from chemotherapy - older drugs with harsh side effects - in favor of gene-targeting therapies, hormone blockers and immune system treatments.

A cancer diagnosis is never good news, but for two of the most common cancers, it should now be a little less terrifying with the announcement that chemotherapy is unnecessary in many cases of breast cancer and certain lung cancers. None of the women in the trial had previously had chemotherapy or radiotherapy for this cancer.

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A group of 10,273 women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers were tested for 21 genes known to influence cancer return rates.

Avoiding chemotherapy can make a major difference to a woman's quality of life and health. However, the findings of this study will need to be considered alongside other evidence.

The patients' tumors were analyzed using a test called Oncotype DX, which examines the activity of 21 genes to predict the risk of a recurrence over 10 years.

"Chemotherapy is an absolute cornerstone of breast cancer treatment, but with the side-effects being nearly unbearable for some we must ensure it is only given to those that will benefit from it". Prof Alan Melcher, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: "This treatment represents a remarkable success in terms of translating our basic biological understanding of how the immune system responds to cancer into a real treatment of real benefit.' Peter Johnson, professor of medical oncology at Southampton General Hospital, said that "even cancers that have spread to different parts of the body may be treatable".

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