Chemotherapy after breast cancer recurrance increases survival rates

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Chemotherapy after surgery, or adjuvant chemotherapy, led to higher rates of disease-free and overall survival for women with isolated local or regional recurrence of breast cancer, according to a study presented at the 2012 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium by researchers from Allegheny General Hospital and the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project.


Patients with isolated local and/or regional recurrence of their breast cancers are at high risk for developing metastases in other areas of the body. Some physicians administer chemotherapy to these patients after their recurrent tumors have been completely removed by surgery, but the efficacy of this treatment had not been studied until now.


“This is the first randomized controlled study that shows that adjuvant chemotherapy works in these patients,” said lead investigator Dr. Stefan Aebi, head of the division of medical oncology at Luzerner Kantonsspital in Luzern, Switzerland


Dr. Norman Wolmark, chairman of the NSABP and professor of surgery at AGH, served as a principal investigator for the study along with Dr. Charles Geyer, former director of the AGH Cancer Center, and former director of medical affairs at the NSABP.


Wolmark and Geyer, together with colleagues from the Breast International Group, the NSABP and the International Breast Cancer Study Group, evaluated 162 patients with isolated local and regional recurrence; 85 received adjuvant chemotherapy and 77 did not.


Five-year disease-free survival rates were 69 percent for women who received adjuvant chemotherapy and 57 percent for those who did not. The overall survival rate was 88 percent for women who received chemotherapy compared with 76 percent for those who did not.


Women with estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer demonstrated the greatest benefit, with a five-year disease-free survival rate of 67 percent among those who received chemotherapy versus 35 percent among those who did not. In addition, within this group, overall survival rates were 79 percent among those who received chemotherapy and 69 percent among those who did not.


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