Published: Tue, June 05, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Licking cancer: U.S. postal stamp helps fund key breast study

Licking cancer: U.S. postal stamp helps fund key breast study

Chicago: Countless breast cancer patients in the future will be spared millions of dollars of chemotherapy thanks in part to something that millions of Americans did that cost them just pennies: bought a postage stamp.

According to a new U.S. study, after the tumor has been removed from the breast, chemotherapy would only be needed in 20% of cases for patients suffering of breast cancer.

The breast cancer epicemic can not be reversed without considering women's exposure to chemical cocktails throughout their lives, argued Professor Andreas Kortenkamp of the University of London, presenting new scientific evidence to the European Parliament. The test scores the tumor from 0 to 100, with a high score-26 or above-indicating that chemotherapy will improve therapeutic efficacy, and a low score-10 or under-suggesting a very low likelihood of distant recurrence at 10 years, which is unlikely to be affected by adjuvant chemotherapy.

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The study is the largest ever done of breast cancer treatment. Women in the intermediate recurrence score group were randomly assigned to receive either endocrine therapy plus chemotherapy or endocrine therapy alone. These included hormone-driven breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.

"The study should have a huge impact on doctors and patients", Dr. Albain said. Now they can have confidence in those decisions, experts said.

Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: "This life-changing breakthrough is absolutely wonderful news as it could liberate thousands of women from the agony of chemotherapy".

The method, while still in its infancy, also shrank hard-to-treat tumors in six other patients with colon and cervical cancers, said Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the institute where it is being studied.

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For Litton, the new study will make a tremendous difference in breast cancer treatment for many women.

In a reaction via the Science Media Centre in London, immunotherapy professor Alan Melcher of The Institute of Cancer Research said the trial was "fascinating and exciting". Generally, after surgery, such patients receive endocrine therapy, such as tamoxifen, which is created to block the cancer-spurring effects of hormones.

The same conference heard that the drug pembrolizumab, already approved for lung cancer, resulted in longer survival times and milder side-effects for non-small cell lung cancer patients than traditional chemotherapy treatment.

KUSI was joined by Medical Oncologist Dr. Richard Schwab of US San Diego with more on the study.

It found that Merck pharmaceutical's drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) - which famously helped former United States president Jimmy Carter stave off advanced melanoma that had spread to his brain - helped lung cancer patients live four to eight months longer than chemo. Treatment options include estrogen-blocking drugs along with doses of chemotherapy to lower the risk of recurrence.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he expects the agency will still decide in some cases whether terminally ill patients can receive unproven drugs, despite a new law meant to weaken the FDA's power over such cases. "I was planning on dying", she added, "After the treatment dissolved most of my tumours, I was able to go for a 40-mile hike".

In the trial, more than 6,700 patients were split into two groups.

Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute gave the experimental treatment, which has since been licensed to Gilead Sciences Inc., to a 49-year-old woman whose cancer came roaring back after a decade in remission. The challenge so far in cancer immunotherapy is it tends to work spectacularly for some patients, but the majority do not benefit.

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