BONE-MARROW TRANSPLANTS: No Benefit for Breast Cancer
NBC's Bob Bazell reported last night that "NBC News has learned that early conclusions of two major studies show that for women with advanced breast cancer, the common treatment of last resort, bone-marrow transplant, does not work. As many as 10,000 women in the United States suffer through the agonizing procedure every year. ... Many doctors say it's the best hope for women with advanced breast cancer." The National Breast Cancer Coalition's Fran Visco said: "So when an individual woman hears that, she is going to opt to have the therapy. No matter how toxic it is, no matter how life-threatening the therapy is, she believes that it's the only thing that could possibly save her life." Bazell reported, "Many women and their doctors want the transplants so much they've fought with insurance companies, which tried to deny coverage because they say there's no scientific proof they work. In case after case, juries sided with the patient. In fact, in 1993 a California jury awarded $89 million to the family of" a women who "was denied a transplant by her HMO."
"To find out once and for all if the dangerous and expensive procedure works, the National Cancer Institute set up the two clinical trials," Bazell reported. "When researchers got their first look at the results last November, they found that women on the transplants did no better than women who got conventional chemotherapy. In fact, some women who got transplants died even sooner," he reported. "So what to do with this devastating information?," Bazell asked, noting that "[l]ast month the National Cancer Institute decided to withhold the preliminary data until a planned medical meeting this spring." University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Edward Stadtmauer: "The conclusion was that we needed to wait until May for the formal presentations and the formal data analysis." But, Bazell reported, "Activists say the information ought to be out now, and that the Cancer Institute is sitting on information vital to desperate cancer patients, for their own bureaucratic reasons" ("Nightly News," 3/9).