New study says many women with common breast cancer can safely skip chemo

(CNN) -- About 70% of women diagnosed with the early stages of one of the most common forms of breast cancer might not need chemotherapy as part of treatment, according to the results of a long-awaited study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago Sunday.

The study, published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed how well a widely used genetic test assessed cancer risk, based on 21 genes linked with breast cancer recurrence.

"What that test does is look at 21 different genes to see if each is turned on or off and then if it is over-expressed or not," Brawley said. "So we have two yes-no answers for each gene. It looks at all 21 of those answers and gives that cancer a recurrent score between 0 and 100."

"These data confirm that using a 21-gene expression test to assess the risk of cancer recurrence can spare women unnecessary treatment if the test indicates that chemotherapy is not likely to provide benefit," lead author Dr. Joseph A. Sparano, associate director for clinical research at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center, said in a statement. The study was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and led by the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group.

SGLA's breast specialist Dr. Elizabeth Arena notes that, "This is a noteworthy study that shows many women with early stage breast cancer can safely avoid chemotherapy. Breast cancer treatment is far from one size fits all, and women benefit from providers who encourage individualized treatment recommendations."

You can read the full breakdown of the study here: The New England Journal of Medicine

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