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Breast Cancer Treatment Ineffective in 4 of 5 Studies

An expensive breast cancer regimen that is used to treat women with advanced stages of the disease did not prolong life in four of five major studies. The treatment, which combines high-power chemotherapy treatment with bone marrow transplants, is used only in women who are in advanced stages of the disease and have little chance for survival.

In patients whose breast cancer has metastasizes or spread throughout the body, doctors sometimes prescribe high levels of chemotherapy. Given that high levels of chemotherapy poison the patient’s bone marrow, transplants of healthy marrow must follow the chemotherapy treatments.

Preliminary findings from five major studies were released yesterday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Complete findings will be released at an ASCO meeting next month.

Four of the five studies found that patients receiving the costly bone-marrow treatment did not live longer than those who received other treatment. The fifth study did find some evidence that the treatment helped some patients, but released a statement saying, “It is not yet possible to draw definitive conclusions about the role of high-dose chemotherapy in breast cancer.”

Sources:

New York Times - April 16, 1999

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