New Chemo Approach Could Boost Breast Cancer Survival Rates by a Third

Wednesday, 9th March 2016

A study has discovered that women with breast cancer could be up to one third less likely to die from the disease if they receive more regular cycles of chemotherapy.

Research carried out on 3,305 women suggests that closer intervals between treatments significantly increased survival. The study found no additional side effects.

According to experts, the NHS must reassess the way breast cancer is treated. At present, women suffering from the disease receive cycles of chemotherapy three weeks apart to end the recurrence of breast cancer.

The study, which was carried out on women aged 44 on average, discovered that moving the treatment to every two weeks instead of every three boosted 10 year survival by 29%. In some more aggressive cancers, the risk of return dropped by 35%.

Each year, around 10,000 women aged under 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer. The researchers said that most would be benefitted by the new approach, which reduces the time in which a cancer cell can recover between chemotherapy cycles.

Though the study was carried out on younger women, the researchers said the results were likely to be the same in older women as well.

Dr Matteo Lambertini, lead researcher, said that this may be deemed the best treatment preference and should be offered to all pre-menopausal breast cancer patients at high risk.

Cancer experts say the therapy is superior for quicker reactions to fast-growing tumour cells.

The study’s findings were presented in Amsterdam at the European Breast Cancer Conference and charities have welcomed the results. Head of Breast Cancer Now, Baroness Delyth Morgan, said the study is promising and confirms that having chemotherapy every fortnight could improve survival chances for women aged under 50 who have breast cancer.

Chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, Samia al Qadhi, said it’s reassuring to see that more regular chemotherapy cycles could help to boost rates of survival in younger patients with breast cancer. She said in some cases, the method is used already, but the new study helps in deciding whether more patients should be treated like this.

Samia also said that for younger women, one of chemotherapy’s toughest side is bringing on an early menopause, as this can cause infertility. Therefore, she welcomes the news that dose-dense chemotherapy did not cause the chances of this happening to increase in the study. She said anything that enables younger women to make informed choices about fertility preservation possibilities and treatments with their doctors is a good addition in treating the disease.

Signs of breast cancer include changes in the shape or size of the breast, a lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue, swelling in the collarbone or armpit, a rash or redness on the skin and/or around the nipple, puckering or dimpling of the skin on the breast, constant pain in the armpit or breast, discharge from the nipple and inversion of the nipple.