• 1980s standard chemotherapy treatment reduced death rates by almost 25 per cent
  • Proof better drugs and drug combinations are now available

By Sadie Whitelocks


A study has found modern chemotherapy drugs cut breast cancer deaths by around 30 per cent

A study has found modern chemotherapy drugs cut breast cancer deaths by around 30 per cent

Modern chemotherapy drugs cut breast cancer deaths by around 30 per cent a study has revealed.

This compares with the 1980s when standard chemotherapy treatment reduced death rates by almost 25 per cent.

Scientists believe findings provide clear proof that better drugs and drug combinations are now available,providing patients with maximum benefit while minimising the side effects.

Researchers from Oxford University collated data from 123 trials involving around 100,000 women conducted over the past four decade.

They found today's drugs reduced mortality by about a third in a wide range of patients, compared with no chemotherapy.

The findings applied to all women regardless of age, size of tumor and how far the cancer had spread.

Lead researcher Sir Richard Peto said: 'The 10-year risk of recurrence and death from breast cancer can be reduced by at least half by giving a few months of modern chemotherapy plus five years of endocrine therapy.'

The first use of drugs to treat cancer was in the early 20th century, with significant development during World War II.

Chemotherapy can have severe side effects such as hair loss and severe tiredness and is only given if there is a substantial risk of cancer recurring.

It can be given either as a tablet, as an injection or as an infusion directly into a vein and there are over 50 different types of medication which can be used to treat hundreds of different types of cancer.

Dr Susie Jennings, from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: 'Chemotherapy has transformed the outlook for breast cancer patients and this study provides clear proof of that.

'Even better, the benefits have increased over time due to newer, better drugs being used in smarter combinations.'

It is hoped that the findings, published in The Lancet medical journal. will encourage even more targeted use of chemotherapy.

Professor Peto added: ‘Britain has had the best decrease in the world in breast cancer mortality, partly because of earlier detection and better local control, but partly because of increasingly wide use of endocrine therapy and chemotherapy.’

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and about 46,000 women get breast cancer every year.