A lot of SWOG members directly care for people with cancer, and of course we all know how toxic therapy can be, causing pain, fatigue, nausea, edema, bleeding, alopecia, and infertility. For young women and men, this last side effect can be particularly brutal. Not being able to have children is a terrible price to pay for surviving cancer.

That’s why S0230, also known as POEMS, represents such good news. In 2014, the first results made a splash at the annual ASCO meeting. Now we see the final, five-year results this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In our press release, which you can read here, POEMS Study Chair Dr. Halle Moore said: “These five-year follow-up results confirm our initial findings. Goserelin protects the ovaries from the effects of chemotherapy, reducing the risk for early menopause. By getting these injections, more women became pregnant without negatively affecting their health or their chances of surviving their cancer.”

The updated results, which include much longer follow-up, show that, on average, 23 percent of women who took goserelin became pregnant compared with 12 percent on standard therapy. Importantly, women who took goserelin experienced similar, or even better, five-year disease-free survival rates (88%) compared with women who received standard chemo (79%). At five years, 92 percent of women who took goserelin were alive, compared to 83 percent of control patients.

The protective power of a simple hormonal agent, and the impact it can have on breast cancer survivors, truly is an important supportive finding. And it is one few would pursue outside of a system like ours. SWOG and its partners on POEMS – ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology – are federally funded NCTN members. Another partner in POEMS, the International Breast Cancer Study Group, is a consortium of cooperative groups.

POEMS has already changed the standard of cancer care. Since the first release of results, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Clinical Practice Guidelines for Oncology and the St. Gallen Consensus Conference guidelines have changed to reflect the use of goserelin for younger women who hope to protect ovarian function during chemotherapy for breast cancer. We now expect other organizations to update their pathways.

My congratulations to Dr. Moore and her team for their work on this unique and important cancer trial. And when you get a minute, look at
 our timeline on SWOG.org. POEMS is there, marking its place in history.