[MOL] Breast Cancer Therapy Questioned..... [00322] Medicine On Line


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[MOL] Breast Cancer Therapy Questioned.....



Thursday, March 25, 1999
Breast Cancer Therapy Questioned

      Four studies looking at the use of chemotherapy followed by bone marrow transplants for women with advanced breast cancer could help settle the debate about whether the treatment is more effective than standard chemotherapy.
       The studies, which began about a decade ago, are expected to be released publicly April 15, a month earlier than planned. Breast cancer patients, health care professionals and insurance companies are eagerly waiting for the results, which they hope will clarify whether the last-resort therapy is worth the cost and risk to women.
      The studies are likely to spark controversy because the medical community does not agree on whether this aggressive treatment for women is beneficial. Some doctors report the chemotherapy/transplant combination extends women's lives longer than just standard chemotherapy. And some doctors are already questioning how useful the decade-old studies will be today, considering the studies looked at procedures now considered obsolete, according to a report in the March 24 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Two of the studies were conducted in the United States, one in Sweden and the fourth in South Africa.
      Bone marrow transplants were used mainly to treat blood cancers, such as leukemia, but started being used in the 1980s as a way to deliver more potent chemotherapy to breast cancer patients. Such high doses can kill immune system cells while also destroying cancer cells. Doctors use bone marrow transplants to reduce the risks from these high chemotherapy doses by withdrawing bone marrow cells before the chemotherapy and then injecting them back in after the chemotherapy has been administered.
--By Katrina Woznicki

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