Advances in chemotherapy improve outcomes in select breast cancers

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Recent advances in chemotherapy have significantly reduced the risk of disease recurrence and death in breast cancer patients whose tumors are not hormone sensitive, according to a study by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and 10 other institutions. The findings were reported in the April 12, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers found that breast cancer patients whose disease had spread to the lymph nodes and was estrogen-receptor- negative (ER-negative) and who received adjuvant treatments with modern chemotherapy had a much greater improvement in their five-year disease-free survival rate (22.8 percent) than those patients with hormone-sensitive tumors (ER-positive) who were treated with the same chemotherapy and tamoxifen (7 percent). The improvement in overall survival rate with the newer chemotherapy regimens was 16.7 percent for ER-negative patients and 4 percent for ER-positive patients.

“Our observations add to a growing body of evidence that breast cancer is not one homogeneous disease, but rather a disease with many subtypes and requires a variety of new treatment approaches,” said Eric Winer, MD, the paper’s senior author and director of Dana-Farber’s Breast Oncology Center.