THOUSANDS of breast cancer patients could be spared gruelling chemotherapy treatment following a landmark study.
A trial of more than 10,000 women with the most common form of early breast cancer found the treatment was unnecessary for many after surgery.
The findings could lead to a fundamental change in how the disease is treated – with up to 5,000 women avoiding chemotherapy every year as a result.
Read more: Breast cancer ‘beast’ can be tamed
Angela Harris, head of the Breast Cancer Care Scotland charity, called for NHS Scotland to adopt the new practice as soon as possible.
She said: “This incredible News is game-changing as it means thousands of women will be able to avoid chemotherapy with confidence.
“Whether or not to have the treatment is a terrible dilemma for many women with certain types of breast cancer, as they often don’t have clear-cut answers on the benefits.
“Devastating side effects, such as hair loss, severe pain and infertility, can be traumatic and life-changing yet many endure it to try and avoid the cancer coming back.”
Lawrence Cowan, Scotland manager at Breast Cancer Now, added: “This is another important step towards personalised breast cancer treatment that will help some patients avoid unnecessary chemotherapy.
“Chemotherapy is a cornerstone of breast cancer treatment, but the side-effects can be so difficult for some women to cope with and we must ensure it is only given to those that will benefit from it.
“We hope these major findings will now help refine our use of chemotherapy on the NHS in Scotland.”
TAILORx trial analysed the findings of tests – currently available on the NHS – which allows doctors to predict the likelihood of breast cancer returning.
Patients with a low recurrence “score” have previously been shown not to benefit from chemotherapy, and instead need only hormone treatment.
The study, led by the Montefiore Medical Centre in New York, suggests some patients with higher “scores” would no longer require chemotherapy.
Read more: Breast cancer screening failure
Dr Alistair Ring, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital, in London, said: “I think this is a fundamental change in the way we treat women with early-stage breast cancer and will lead to a considerable number of women no longer needing to have chemotherapy.
“It is a significant step because it is about avoiding a treatment that, for most people diagnosed with cancer, is what they all fear being suggested to have.”
The study of 10,273 women, led by Dr Joseph Sparano, associate director for clinical research at the Montefiore Medical Centre, is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It was also presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.
Source : HeraldScotland