Chemotherapy can cause devastating side effects. What if cancer patients could skip the chemo and still win the battle against their disease?
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Jennifer Matthews: Eleanor Garrity has a newfound appreciation for life's simple pleasures like combing her hair. Eleanor Garrity: I can't imagine the shock of going into the shower and you hair is just falling out in clumps and clumps. Jennifer Matthews: Losing her hair because of chemotherapy was a real threat just a few months ago. Diagnosed with breast cancer, Eleanor had a mastectomy. Chemo was then scheduled to ensure the cancer would not return. Eleanor Garrity: I was afraid that if I started to take chemo, it would make me sick. Jennifer Matthews: She was spared thanks to a new genetic test that identifies which genes are turned on or off in a breast tumor. Dr. Joseph Sparano: The oncotype test is a multi-gene that's test performed on breast tumor tissue that can more accurately predict outcome prognosis. Jennifer Matthews: The results are a score from zero to 100. At 17 or below, there's a low risk for breast cancer recurrence, so doctors recommend hormone therapy only. A score of 31 or above means chemo should be added. For those in between, the proper therapy is not so clear, which is why Dr. Sparano is leading a nationwide clinical trial. Dr. Joseph Sparano: If chemo is necessary in this group is there a threshold effect or is there a specific recurrence score at which we begin seeing a benefit from chemotherapy. You can see that you fall into the low-risk group. Jennifer Matthews: That news changed Eleanor's life and has her walking on the road to good health. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.