Dr. Julie Gralow, director of breast medical oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, an academic-based treatment center, said 10 years ago, oncologists recommended chemotherapy for all women with early-stage breast cancer.
However, genomic testing allows physicians to determine drug receptivity or drug resistance to treatment so today half of women with breast cancer forego traditional chemotherapy for a less toxic targeted drug therapy, Gralow said.
"Because chemotherapy is the most toxic of all the therapies, the fact that we can offer an effective alternative, hormonal therapy, is a very good thing for patients," Gralow said in a statement.
Radiation oncologists at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are also working on new methods for delivering less radiation to certain breast cancer patients.
Dr. Janice Kim, a breast radiation oncologist, plans to lead a new treatment protocol involving early-stage breast cancer. Standard treatment for breast cancer recurrence is a mastectomy without radiation, because too much radiation can lead to permanent damage of normal tissues in the breast, Kim said.
Instead, under the new approach, women will undergo a second lumpectomy followed by the technique "accelerated partial breast irradiation." Kim said her approach was to hit the "tumor bed" with high doses of radiation twice a day for only five days.
If it works, the result would be less surgery and radiation, Kim said.