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No Go for Chemo – New Study Says Many Women with Breast Cancer Don’t Need Chemotherapy

June 18th, 2018


According to a major international study, known as TAILORx, as many as 60,000 women a year who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer do not actually need it. This differs from current standards, sparing thousands of women from the rigors of chemotherapy. The study confirmed that through gene testing, many women could instead take only the drug tamoxifen or other estrogen blocking medications.

Chemotherapy can be very successful, but also has serious side-effects. For this reason, Good Samaritan Chief of Hematology/Oncology John Loscalzo, MD, sees the recent study as great news. He states that this recommendation only affects a subset of patients who have breast cancer; those with an intermediate risk of relapse as defined by their Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Assay test. Oncotypes are done only on women with breast cancer who have tumors that are node negative, estrogen positive and Her-2 receptor negative.

“At The Cancer Center at Good Samaritan, we have incorporated Oncotype testing into our decision making for many years,” said Dr. Loscalzo. “This test analyzes the genes in the cancer cells that may be broken and are causing the cells to grow out of control. These are not genes the patient inherited or could have passed on to her children. Instead, they are mutations that have transformed a normal breast cell into a cancerous one.”

The Oncotype test is a measure of risk of relapse and scored on a range from 1 to 100. It divides cancers into three groups—low, intermediate and high risk. According to Dr. Loscalzo, the majority of women fall into the low risk category and the recommendation for them for many years has not included chemotherapy. Those in the intermediate group, though, are among the 60,000 annually whose treatment was at question. Not providing chemotherapy could have meant a missed opportunity of curing the patient. This study, though, provides the data and confirmation that this subset of women do not need chemotherapy.

“The final caveat is that for women under 50 years of age, the recommendation is still up for debate as to whether chemotherapy should be recommended for intermediate risk women. Being able to spare so many women from the toxicity of chemotherapy is very good news,” said Dr. Loscalzo.

Good Samaritan’s Breast Health Center, part of The Cancer Center at Good Samaritan, was created in 1993 in response to community concerns and the hospital’s commitment to women and their health care needs. It is the first comprehensive, patient-focused program on Long Island and offers a dynamic multidisciplinary team approach to breast health and breast disease. With early detection, innovative technology and advanced diagnostic and treatment services, more women are surviving breast cancer today. The hospital’s expert oncologists, surgeons, nurses and ancillary medical staff specialize in the treatment of breast disease.

Coming in early 2019, The Cancer Center at Good Samaritan will have a new home. The brand new Center will be located on Beach Dr. in West Islip and will feature a number of cancer services including infusion, hematology and oncology, allowing patients and their families access to award-winning cancer services on the south shore of Long Island. The Center is among 1% of facilities nationwide to receive of the Commission on Cancer Three-year Accreditation with Commendation for five consecutive surveys, fifteen years in a row, showing its dedication and commitment to cancer patients and their families.

For more information on the Cancer Center or Breast Health Center at Good Samaritan, call (631) 376-4444.