On April 15, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released long-awaited preliminary results of five studies on bone marrow transplants for women with advanced breast cancer. Considered a last resort, the painful and costly procedure involves ultrahigh doses of chemotherapy which destroy the patient's bone marrow which must then be replaced by a transplant or marrow-restoring stem cells. Four of the five studies found no difference in survival rates of patients who had high-dose chemotherapy with transplants, and those who had lower doses of chemotherapy. The fifth study, from South Africa, did find a benefit for women with positive lymph nodes. Critics of the transplant therapy argue that the studies show thousands of women have needlessly undergone excruciating and expensive procedures. However, because the five studies are so different, attacking tumors in different ways and involving women in different stages of breast cancer, the NCI and others have asserted that this is far from the last word on the subject, and the NCI has plans to fund fifteen additional studies. The sites listed provide information about breast cancer treatments.
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