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Stray Breast Cancer Cells Yield to Post-Op Chemo
Date:8/12/2009

endocrine).

The researchers followed the women for a median of 5.1 years (half followed longer, and half for less time) to see if the extra therapy reduced cancer recurrence and increased disease-free survival. They associated the tiny metastases and isolated tumor cells with an absolute decline in five-year disease-free survival of 10 percent. In other words, those with the tiny cancer cells present who are treated with additional therapy had a nearly 10 percent improvement in disease-free survival at five years, they found.

"So, five years after the diagnosis of every 100 patients with micrometastases or isolated tumor cells, 10 more will have a disease event compared with 100 patients with comparable primary tumor characteristics who did not have metastases in the axillary nodes," Tjan-Heijnen said.

The study proves that the micrometastases and the isolated tumor cells are important considerations when evaluating the prognosis, she said.

Cancer specialists have debated how to treat a patient with these small metastases and isolated tumor cells, said Dr. Minetta Liu, director of translational breast cancer research at the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C.

The study results suggest that "looking for these cells may be another tool to determine how likely a recurrence is," she said. But more study is needed to validate the findings, she added.

Dr. Hannah Linden, a medical oncologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said the study results could change current practice. "If these findings are true, they will influence decision making significantly, and help us know which patients really 'need' chemo to give them an advantage in reducing the risk that the tumor recurs," she said.

More information

To learn more about adjuvant therapy for breast cancer, visit the

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