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New Study: Many Women with Breast Cancer can Forgo Chemotherapy

What a great way to start the summer! On June 3rd, the American Society for Clinical Oncology released   news to make our sunny summer days even brighter. According to a long-term, federally-funded study, thousands of women who are facing a breast cancer diagnosis won’t need to undergo chemotherapy and all its painful side effects, to achieve optimum results.1


When women are diagnosed with the most common form of breast cancer (called hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, axillary node-negative breast cancer) their doctors perform a genome test on the tumor to determine the Breast Recurrence Score. 2 Traditionally, women with a mid-range recurrence score (between 11-25) did not have a large study to help them or their doctors determine the best treatment course, so usually would choose the most aggressive option of treating it with chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

And, as we all know, chemotherapy’s side effects can be brutal for patients, causing nausea, fatigue, infection, hair loss, early menopause, infertility and neuropathy.1

A new study, called the Trial Assigning IndividuaLized Options for Treatment (TAILORx) has shed some light on this dilemma, empowering women and their doctors with the information they need to best treat their cancer.


The importance of the TAILORx study cannot be underestimated because it will spare thousands of women from receiving chemotherapy that wouldn’t benefit them. It was a well-designed study, enrolling 10,273 women and following them over 9 years. 

Bottom line, the study demonstrates that:

  • Women over 50 with the most common type of breast cancer (85% of breast cancer cases in this age group) may forgo chemotherapy
  • Women under 50 with hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative, node-negative breast cancer and a recurrence score of 0 to 15 (about 40% of women with breast cancer in this age group) may also forgo chemotherapy1

And that’s GREAT news for women looking for an evidence-based reason to NOT use chemotherapy to treat their breast cancer. In the study, women with recurrence scores of 11-25 had a 93% survival rate after 9 years, with or without the chemo. 1

Another important finding of the study showed that women under 50 who had a recurrence score of 16-25 benefited slightly with the addition of chemotherapy to hormone replacement therapy.1


Next time you feel skeptical about donating to a cancer foundation, consider that this study was made possible by several well-known cancer foundations. The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, was the primary funder of this study, but additional support was given by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Komen Foundation, and the U.S. Postal Service Breast Cancer Stamp .1


1 Most Women With Early Stage Breast Cancer Can Forgo Chemotherapy When Guided by a Diagnostic Test. (2018, June 03). Retrieved from opens in a new window

2 Oncotype DX: Genomic Test to Inform Breast Cancer Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from opens in a new window