Immune treatment cured my terminal breast cancer

Phillip Cunningham
June 7, 2018

Many women with early-stage breast cancer who would receive chemotherapy under current standards do not actually need it, according to a major global study that is expected to quickly change medical treatment.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study on Sunday that examined a popular genetic test that estimated cancer risk based on nearly two dozen genes linked with the recurrence of breast cancer, according to CNN.

"Our study shows that chemotherapy may be avoided in about 70 percent of these women when its use is guided by the test, thus limiting chemotherapy to the 30 percent of women we can predict will benefit from it", lead author Dr. Joseph Sparano said, via The Independent.

The test examines genes from a patient's breast cancer biopsy sample and allows doctors to assign a patient a "recurrence score" from 0 to 100, according to a news release from Loyola Medicine announcing the findings.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, said the research was "world class".

The doctors who treated the woman say while their approach is still experimental, they believe it could be adapted to treat other kinds of cancer as well.

"Now with these genomic tests, we are finding that we have multiple types of breast cancer, perhaps several dozen", said Brawley, "and we are being able to tailor our therapies to the type of breast cancer every woman has". "We want to give the right amount", he said.

There are typically more than 55,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the United Kingdom each year, while around 11,500 people die from the disease.

A 21-gene test called Oncotype DX, available since 2004, has helped guide some decisions on proper care after surgery. This growing area of medicine involves using the body's own immune system to destroy cancer cells and has shown great promise in treating advanced melanoma.


"I'm delighted", said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, who was not part of the study.

Scientists analysed Perkins' biopsies to identify the T-cells which were already attacking a handful of the 62 cancerous mutations in her body.

"Oncologists have been getting much smarter about dialing back treatment so that it doesn't do more harm than good", said Steven Katz, a University of MI researcher who examines medical decision-making.

The researchers did find that some patients who were diagnosed at age 50 or younger and whose risk scores were on the higher end of the mid-range did benefit from chemotherapy. About 16 percent with low-risk scores knew they could skip chemo. The presence of hormone receptors in these tumours means that they respond to hormone therapy. "They are going to change treatment - and remove uncertainty for women making decisions". The results are sure to accelerate the decline in chemotherapy for the disease.

According to a research article "Epidemiology of breast cancer in Indian women" by Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, in India, breast cancer has been ranked number one cancer among Indian females.

"Immunotherapy is here to stay for the vast majority of non-small-cell lung cancer patients as a first-line treatment".

"About one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime".

About 17 percent of women had high-risk scores and were advised to have chemo.

Immunotherapies, such as adoptive cell transfer, are playing an increasingly prominent role in the treatment, however now only about 20 per cent of patients respond. "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".

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