Determining who can be spared chemo

Landmark study on early-stage breast cancer suggests many can avoid it

Most women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of beating the disease, says a landmark study that used genetic testing to gauge each patient's risk.

Presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, the study findings suggest that hundreds of thousands of breast cancer patients across the globe may be able to forgo chemotherapy.

In the study, women were deemed to have a medium level risk of the cancer recurrence based on a 21-gene panel known as Oncotype DX.

The test is available for Australian women, but they cannot claim it under Medicare.

In the US, those who score low on the test — 0-10 — are already told to skip chemotherapy after their tumours are removed and they receive hormone therapy.

Those who score high — 26-100 — receive both hormone therapy and chemotherapy.