A new study suggests chemotherapy is not needed for most women with early stage estrogen positive breast cancer.

The Oncatype DX gene test can pinpoint women who need chemo and those who don’t. Women with a low-to-mid range score (1-25) show no added benefit to chemotherapy, save a subset of women 50 years old or younger as chemo shows no benefit with a score under 16. Results show women over 50 would not need chemo.

“It is not only a benefit to patients in not undergoing unnecessary toxic treatment, but it provides a level of confidence and it reduces the distress in how they make a decision,” says Dr. Stephen Chia, Medical Oncologist in BC Cancer’s Vancouver centre and Head of the Province’s Breast Tumor group.

BC Cancer and Dr. Chia had 30 to 40 patients take part in the study. In total, over 10,000 patients were monitored.

Prince George is home to the only cancer treatment centre in northern BC. Residents in the north, especially in remote communities, have a specific benefit of the findings.

“If they’re in remote communities, those in the past that did get chemo suffering from side-effects, it’s more difficult for them to access medical care like an emergency room or their oncologist in a very timely manner,” he explains.

“So they also would not have to deal with the consequences of going through the side-effects of chemotherapy and managing those.”

Oncatype DX has been commercially available and publicly funded through the BC Ministry of Health for over three years.