Chemotherapy won’t be necessary for thousands of women after a breakthrough in breast cancer research. A trial of more than 10,000 women with the most common form of early breast cancer found the treatment was unnecessary for many after surgery. The findings will lead to a ‘fundamental change’ in the way the disease is treated, a leading oncologist said, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 UK women likely to avoid chemotherapy every year as a result. Charity Breast Cancer Care said it was a ‘life-changing breakthrough’. More than 20,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative, node-negative breast cancer annually. Around half of these patients would historically receive chemotherapy after having surgery to remove their tumour, to prevent recurrence of the disease. However, the results of the TAILORx trial show that only 30% of women with this particular form of early-stage breast cancer benefit from the treatment. The study, presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago, is thought to be the largest breast cancer treatment trial ever conducted. Dr Alistair Ring, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Hospital, in London, said: ‘I think this is a fundamental change in the way we treat women with early-stage breast cancer and will lead to a considerable number of women no longer needing to have chemotherapy. Nine-year survival rates were 93.9% without chemotherapy and 93.8% with chemotherapy, the study found. Dr Ring said the trial’s reuslts would likely have an immediate impact on UK practice and represented a significant shake-up in the treatment of early-stage breast cancer. It is a significant step because it is about avoiding a treatment that, for most people diagnosed with cancer, is what they all fear being suggested to have,’ he said. I, as an oncologist on Monday in clinic, will offer less chemotherapy that will not be of benefit to patients and that is very reassuring to know that when I am offering patients chemotherapy they are likely to benefit from it. Rachel Rawson, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said: ‘This life-changing breakthrough is absolutely wonderful news as it could liberate thousands of women from the agony of chemotherapy. Every day, women with certain types of breast cancer face the terrible dilemma of whether or not to have the treatment, without hard facts about the benefit for them. Side effects, such as hair loss, severe pain and infertility, can be utterly devastating and linger long after they walk out the hospital doors.