Woman cured of cancer using own immune cells

Participant Adine Usher met last month with study leader Dr. Joseph Sparano at the Montefiore and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) examined over 10,000 breast cancer patients and found that women who were treated with an estrogen-blocking hormone therapy had a almost identical survival rate to women treated with chemo and hormone therapy.

"I think everyone will now feel more comfortable with their decisions", Dr. Otis Brawley, MACP, FASCO, FACE, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, told Healthline.

The results are even more impressive because breast cancers, like prostate and ovarian cancers, have relatively few mutations - which makes it much harder for the immune system to differentiate and attack them.

In addition to having their tumors removed, the women in the study underwent a genetic test called Oncotype DX, manufactured by California-based Genomic Health. Based on the pattern in which these genes are turned either on or off, the test produces a score between 0 and 100, which measures the woman's risk of developing breast cancer again in the future.

Currently, women who get a low score on the test are told they do not need chemo, those with a high score are told they definitely do.

A trial of more than 10,000 women with the most common form of early breast cancer found the treatment was unnecessary for many after surgery.

For those who fall in between - which includes most women - there was no clear evidence on whether they need chemotherapy.

The nine-year-survival-rate was 93.9 percent without chemotherapy and 93.8 percent with chemotherapy.

Instead of chemo therapy, most women with early stage breast cancer can take a hormone blocking pill with the same results, Figueredo said. For context, about 12.4% of women in the US-or about 20 million-will likely develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

This researchers split the middle-scoring group into two randomized subgroups: one treated exclusively with estrogen-blocking hormone therapy, and one with chemo combined with hormone therapy. "It helps direct patients to the right therapy, so that we're treating the right people with the right therapy at the right time".

While the U.S. doctors who developed the therapy can not be sure how much the infused immune cells contributed to her recovery, the use of pembrolizumab alone has not been very effective for advanced breast cancer in the past.

"The impact is tremendous", said the study leader, Dr. Joseph Sparano of Montefiore Medical Center in NY.

Arnie Purushotham, a senior clinical adviser to Cancer Research UK who was not involved in the study, welcomed the TAILORx results as an important step toward making cancer treatment less harsh for patients.

Previously, the same study had shown that women with a low risk of recurrence can avoid chemo, and other studies had shown that those with a high risk of recurrence should receive it.

This work showed "we are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realising the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy", he wrote. They could potentially encourage patients to incorrectly avoid or stop treatment-with potentially tragic consequences.

Thousands of breast cancer patients may be safely spared the "agony of chemotherapy" thanks to new genetic testing.

It's one of a few branded tests that have been developed for this objective and is recommended for use in the United Kingdom by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellent (NICE). "That tumor I could palpate with my fingers and it started to get softer and shrink", she said.

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