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Local doctor part of groundbreaking study on breast cancer treatment

PITTSBURGH — A groundbreaking new study on breast cancer treatment was released this week, saying thousands of women a year will no longer need chemotherapy.

The report is considered a game-changer and its co-author is a Pittsburgh doctor.

For the first time ever, 70,000 breast cancer patients a year may get to say no to chemo.

"We used to try to figure out kind of on our own, based on our own experience, who would need chemo and who wouldn't," said UPMC Dr. Adam Brufsky.


He told Channel 11 the standard course of treatment has always been, "get breast cancer, get chemo."

But now a new report published Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine says there's a group of patients that don't need chemo.

Brufsky co-authored the paper and more than 200 Pittsburgh patients were part of the study.

The type of patient it applies to:

  • They have an early-stage tumor that has not spread to the lymph nodes
  • Their tumor is sensitive to estrogen
  • They have a score of 11-25 in a chance of recurrence test

The recurrence test gives a score of 0-100. Traditionally, if you scored a 0-10, you didn't need chemotherapy.

If you got a 26 or above, you definitely needed chemo, but the problem for doctors has always been right here with those in the 11-25 range and whether or not those patients should get chemo.

According to Brufsky, their research showed those middle-ground patients do not benefit from chemo.

Some women may wonder: Does that mean their cancer doesn't respond to chemotherapy and is that a bad thing?

"No it's not, it doesn't need chemo," Brufsky said. "It does so well with hormonal therapy alone, that you don't have to add chemo."

Brufsky acknowledged each patient is different and you should always talk to your doctor.