This week, Cabrini medical oncologist Dr Yoland Antill appeared on Network Ten’s popular evening television program The Project to discuss a major medical breakthrough that is likely to influence treatment plans for many oncology patients.
The segment highlighted the findings of a nine-year study of more than 10,000 women, concluding that chemotherapy may be safely avoided in some cases of breast cancer following surgery. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, will lead to a major change in treatment for a significant group of patients.
The findings apply to patients with hormone-receptor positive HER2 negative breast cancer, with early-stage tumours (one to five centimetres) that have not spread to lymph nodes, and a mid-range recurrent score 11-25, on a widely used gene marker test. Half of Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer have this type of tumour.
As a result of the study, approximately 70 per cent of women who fit this patient profile could be spared chemotherapy, and could receive endocrine therapy alone. Some 6300 Australian women are in this group.
Dr Antill provided expert opinion and called on the Federal Government to make the pertinent test used to identify applicable patients more accessible to more patients through Medicare.
“This is an amazing development for the understanding for women diagnosed with early breast cancer as to the right way forward for their treatment,” said Dr Antill. “It is really exciting: if this simple test can turn around treatment, it’s a fantastic day!”
She said the tests are still very expensive and hoped the need for change to the rebate would be considered quickly. But for those able to utilise the test, this is a great step forward.
“This study will change the recommendation from – there’s a possible need for chemotherapy for the majority of these women to – there is no need for chemotherapy,” she said.
Dr Antill said the costs of chemotherapy were high, not just in terms of the cost of the medication, but in time off work, time away from family, and from their roles in the community.
“If this big cost can be reduced, and savings can be made, and if women can be spared from needlessly having chemotherapy, then it’s a really good outcome.”
For a referral to a Cabrini medical oncologist, please speak to your GP. For information about Cabrini’s medical specialists, click on: www.cabrini.com.au/find-a-doctor
To watch the full interview on The Project, click here: