The recent results from the TAILORx study (a major study published by The New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology) means that certain women with particular genomic profiling and early stage breast cancer can safely forgo postsurgical chemotherapy. This is terrific news and a huge win for oncologists and, most importantly, their patients.
Anyone who has gone through chemotherapy knows that it can be tough and debilitating. Potential side effects from chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, neuropathy, hair loss, fatigue, and infection – as well as early menopause and infertility for younger patients.
In his 1978 paper, titled, Is chemotherapy carcinogenic?, Dr Fred Rosnerwrites in his opening lines, “surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are presently the major modalities of cancer treatment” (and 40 years later, they still are) and reminds the reader that chemotherapy is a “double-edged sword” that should be used judiciously. This TAILORx study will help us do just that.
Chemo is indeed a double-edged sword. No doubt, conventional treatment saves lives. But cancer treatment often comes at a huge cost – many chemotherapy agents are also known carcinogens and listed on the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Group 1 list, along with lovelies such as asbestos.