According to a study, for post-menopausal women with breast cancer that is affected by estrogen, chemotherapy may offer no benefit and a five-year course after surgery of tamoxifen, which obstructs the hormone, may be the only therapy needed. This finding could mean that some of the thousands of American women// diagnosed each year with breast cancer could avoid the debilitating side effects of taking drugs that chemically kill cancer cells and damage other cells in the body.
The study also found that for post-menopausal women whose breast cancer was not affected by estrogen, chemotherapy followed by tamoxifen offered the best hope of disease-free survival. Tamoxifen works by blocking the action of estrogen, a hormone that can promote the growth of cancer cells.
Richard D. Gelber, a biostatistician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston hopes that, this study will question the routine use of chemotherapy in the ER-positive (estrogen sensitive) group. The information should help physicians tailor cancer treatment for specific patients.
Dr. Andrew D. Seidman, a breast cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said the study ``will reaffirm the way that many oncologists are now practicing'' and should help doctors base cancer therapies on the specific characteristics of their patients.
It shows chemotherapy is appropriate for some women, but not others, and that patients who need the therapy can be specifically identified based on the estrogen sensitivity of their tumors and on other factors, Seidman said.
The study, compiled by researchers from nine countries, was limited to breast cancer surgery patients who had completed menopause and whose disease had not spread to the lymph nodes. About 40 percent of the approximately 162,000 women in the United States diagnosed with breast cancer each year fit this category, the study said.
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