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Medical News & Perspectives
May 5, 1999

Bone Marrow/Stem Cells: No Edge in Breast Cancer

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JAMA. 1999;281(17):1576-1578. doi:10.1001/jama.281.17.1576-JMN0505-3-1

Preliminary results from four eagerly anticipated studies from the United States and Europe involving more than 2000 women with breast cancer have found no difference in survival for patients treated aggressively with high-dose chemotherapy (HDC) followed by bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplant compared with patients who had less rigorous therapy.

A fifth trial by South African investigators involving 154 women followed up for 5 years did find that women treated with HDC and stem cell support lived longer than those receiving standard treatment and may hold out hope that some subset of patients may benefit from the approach. But for the most part, the new findings fail to provide evidence that the concept—hitting breast cancer hard with ultra-high doses of cancer drugs and then restoring the body's blood-forming tissues—translates into improved survival.