Alternatives to Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer


Chemotherapy comes with serious side effects for the patient, that can be long-term permanent or even death causing, say Professor Trisha Greenhalgh and Dr. Liz O’Riordan who have penned “The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer”. Both of these authors have undergone chemotherapy for treating breast cancer and both discuss how the doctor has to evaluate benefits versus the risks chemotherapy may cause.

Now, the good news has been revealed by a clinical trial conducted with the funds from US National Cancer Institute that says women with early-stage breast cancer do not need to go for chemotherapy, now that genomic testing has been introduced that can help determine the sort of requisite treatment. Surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy will be more recommended to about 70% of the women diagnosed with this harmful disease.

Genomic profiling has made it convenient to accurately predict benefits and recurrence episodes from chemo. A group of 21 genes was examined as to how they affect and entail a behavior of cancer and its response to treatment. The examination took place through the Oncotype DX test. Furthermore, TAILORx (Trial Assigning Individualized option for Treatment) followed 10,273 women, after assessing and analyzing them through the Oncotype DX test, for about 9 years, in six countries. The result astonishingly showed that 70% of the women did not experience any potential benefit from chemo, even with the most common type of early-stage breast cancer.

The test conducted rates the results from 0 to 100, in accordance with the risk of cancer returning back. 0-10 score is associated with low risk, 11-25 as intermediate and 26 and above as high. Chemotherapy along with hormone therapy was not recommended for women at low risk, but was for women at high risk, as for the intermediate level the recommendations were uncertain, according to the UK study conducted by experts at the University Hospital of South Manchester. For women with intermediate risk, chemo is not that beneficial as well, however, women under 50 might benefit some and can take it to discussion with their doctors.

Hence, women should go for the Oncotype DX test for a better decision, and avoid chemo as a first priority.