New study: Some breast cancer patients may avoid chemo

Rana Bilbeisi
Dr. Rana Bilbeisi 
The largest study ever performed on breast cancer treatment has led to significant changes to how the largest segment of early-stage breast cancer patients undergo their treatment.

In the study, funded mainly by the National Cancer Institute and presented at the nationwide conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology before publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, supports breast cancer patients safely foregoing chemotherapy in favor of a form of hormone therapy.

Though still an effective treatment option for many cancers, this study is expected to save as many as 70,000 breast cancer patients from chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells but can cause many debilitating side effects.

"This is a very meaningful and impactful shift in how we treat breast cancer," said Dr. Rana Bilbeisi, a hematologist and oncologist with the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Macomb. "The industry has been moving toward hormone therapies for cancer treatment and in this type of cancer, the patients are just as receptive and spared the harshness often associated with chemo."

The conclusion of the study affects patients of an early form of breast cancer that has not yet spread to the lymph nodes. To qualify for the hormone treatment described in the study, the patient's breast cancer must be hormone-receptor positive, meaning its growth is fueled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Following the diagnosis, patients would undergo surgery to remove the cancer before proceeding with hormone therapy. The therapy denies the cancer cells the hormones that fuel its growth.

"Early detection is key," Dr. Bilbeisi said. "It puts us in an advantageous position when it comes to treatment."

McLaren Macomb is the first hospital in Macomb County to offer 3D mammography for breast cancer screening. To learn more, or to make an appointment, visit mclaren.org/macombbreastcenter.

To learn more about cancer services offered at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Macomb, visit mclaren.org/macombcancer.