Thousands of women fighting breast cancer can now safely skip chemotherapy, according to a major study that is already changing how the disease is treated.
CGTN’s Kate Parkinson reports from London.
Kate Marlar is at Britain’s Royal Marsden Hospital, Europe’s largest cancer center, for a mammogram. She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. But after surgery and five months of chemotherapy, Kate is now happily cancer free.
There is no doubt that chemo saves lives. The side effects on the toxic drugs, however, are many and wide ranging: from vomiting and fatigue, to infertility and permanent nerve pain.
“I wouldn’t wish chemotherapy on my worst enemy,” Marlar explained. “The side effects are horrendous. They can be life changing. It didn’t just affect me; it affected people around me. My family, my friends.”
But for many, skipping the harsh treatment is now an option after a landmark study published earlier this month.
The TAILORx trial (Trial Assigning Individualized Options for Treatment) involved 10,273 women with breast cancer. Most were experiencing an early stage of the disease and followed for about 9 years.
Researchers found that 70 percent of patients with hormone receptor positive, HER2-negative breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes received no benefit from chemotherapy.
Dr. Alistair Ring, an oncologist at The Royal Marsden Hospital, says the TAILORx findings changed his practice overnight.
“Already I have seen women in my clinic who previously would have needed to be given chemotherapy, but now I can have a discussion about safely withholding chemotherapy,” he explained. “I would imagine that many oncologists around the UK will have taken on the results of this study, they have been well publicized, and it will be impacting on their day-to-day practice.”
According to the TAILORx researchers, 260,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year around the world can now safely skip chemotherapy. For anyone who has been through chemo, that can only be good news.
“There will be a cohort of people within those eligible women now who don’t have to have chemo,” Marlar said. “Thank goodness for that.”