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Chemo May Extend Survival After Breast Cancer's Return
Date:12/6/2012

ho received adjuvant chemotherapy and 69 percent for those who did not.

Among patients with ER-positive breast cancer (tumors that respond to estrogen), five-year, disease-free survival was 70 percent for those who received adjuvant chemotherapy and 69 percent for those who did not, the researchers said. Overall survival was 94 percent for those who received chemotherapy versus 80 percent among those who did not.

Although the study showed an association between adjuvant chemotherapy and improved survival, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Two breast cancer experts were heartened by the results.

"There has been no clear way to manage locally recurrent breast cancer after excision -- most often, chemotherapy has been offered, but some patients have been hesitant about undergoing such aggressive therapy without known clear benefits," explained Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Bernik said that, "It is exciting that we now have a randomized study that quantifies the benefit of chemotherapy for those with recurrent disease so that the patient can make an informed decision as to whether or not to go forward with the treatment. Clinicians now have a study to support what we have long held to be [that] chemotherapy can help improve survival even in woman with recurrent disease."

Dr. Kerin Adelson, an assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, also in New York City, agreed.

"Local recurrences of breast cancer in breast tissue often near the site of the original cancer or in the axillary lymph nodes are curable, unlike cancer which returns in a distant organ," Adelson explained. "This [new] data is absolutely consistent with what we know about the benefit of systemic chemotherapy after a primary cancer. Going forward, oncologists should not hesitate to treat local recurrences as aggressively as they would a primary cancer."

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