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VCU breast cancer trial finds chemo alternative

RICHMOND, Va. – Chemotherapy causes side effects like nausea, fatigue and hair loss, but a new study hopes to give patients an alternative.

A new trial study that took three years to complete at VCU Massey Cancer gives some breast cancer patients another option.

The researchers wanted to see if genetic testing could help identify breast cancer patients and to see if they could benefit from hormonal therapy--instead of going through chemotherapy.

Dr. Harry Bear, the chair of surgical oncology at VCU Massey Center, led the latest genetic profiling study, which involved six other medical institutions and 60-plus breast cancer patients.

Dr. Bear presented the findings at a symposium in San Antonio last December.

The goal of the trial was to see if patients who needed chemo could be treated with just hormone therapy drugs to avoid the side effects of chemotherapy.

"We know a certain group of patient’s chemotherapy will not improve their odds of survival,” Bear said.
It's like using a hammer to swat a fly.”

In some cases, the hormonal therapy was just as successful as the chemotherapy in shrinking the tumors.

"Hormonal therapy is very successful at shrinking the tumor, successfully doing a lumpectomy instead of removing the whole breast,” Bear said.

Now that the trial is complete Bear hopes it could lead to a larger study and doctors can use the findings in their practice.

Read more about the pilot study on Massey website.