Some breast cancer patients can skip chemotherapy

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Women in the early stages of common breast cancer may not need chemotherapy, according to a study published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The data is based on a 21-gene breast cancer test.

“They take a chunk of the tumor and analyze it and find out what are the genes that are driving this tumor,” said Dr. Gustav Magrinat, a medical oncologist with the Cone Health Cancer Center at Wesley Long. “If the tumor is driven by these genes, the tumor is not that aggressive. You don't need chemo. You're going to do fine without chemo, and furthermore if I gave you chemo it won’t do you any good.”

However, if certain other genes are driving the tumor, it would indicate that chemo should be administered.

Magrinat says the research is exciting because it will prevent unnecessary chemo and therefore unnecessary suffering and costs associated with it.

Breast cancer patient Matilda Kirby-Smith had her tumor tested after she was diagnosed in 2015. The results showed she did not need chemo.

She’s thankful that this new information will help more women who can avoid it as well.

“It's so wonderful so many people don't have to do it now,” she said.

Another patient, who only wanted to be identified as Pat, did not have to go through chemo either.

“The only thing I have to do is take a pill,” she said.

Magrinat says with this latest research, two-thirds of patients who otherwise would get chemo no longer need it.

Magrinat recommends that women under 50 should discuss the findings in more detail with their doctors because this group did appear to see a small benefit from chemo.

The study has ties to the Piedmont. Fifteen Cone Health patients participated in the study.

In 2017, Cone Health treated 1,047 breast cancer cases.