Switching Drugs: Helpful in Breast Cancer Prognosis

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Breast cancer up to this date is still the number one malignancy affecting the women population, and although various treatment modalities are now available to increase the chance of survival of those individuals afflicted with the disease, still its mortality rate remains high. The challenge is posts among the medical health professionals in improving the survivability rate of breast cancer and saving more life in the future. The answer to this problem is already on the edge of a new mechanism, and this can be achieved through switching of drugs for breast cancer, according to a clinical trial.

According to the Breast Cancer Organization, About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.

The new clinical trial which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology delved on another strategy in treating breast cancer which can further reduce the risk of dying from the disease. This new strategy was through switching of drugs used for breast cancer, specifically, changing tamoxifen treatment after two to three years to a drug known as aromatase inhibitor or exemestane.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the drug tamoxifen or Nolvadex has been used for more than 30 years to treat breast cancer in both women and men. This drug is known to interfere with the activities of the hormone estrogen which is a female hormone.

The clinical trial involved follow up and analysis of data from the Intergroup Exemestane Study’s (IES) – a comprehensive trial piloted by The Institute of Cancer Research’s Clinical Trials & Statistics Unit (ICR-CTSU) and Imperial College London’s Clinical Trials Unit (Cancer). The new clinical trial examined about 4,052 study participants who have been diagnosed for having early breast cancer stage with estrogen receptor positive, and an addition of about 547 women who have tumors, but with unidentified status of estrogen receptor sensitivity. The trial was conducted among various countries which includes 37 countries dated back in 1998.

The study participants were randomly assigned to either continue the treatment using the drug tamoxifen or to change the drug to exemestane for the remaining period of 5 years among those postmenopausal patients who were already not having the disease for about two to three years. After which, the researchers do a median follow up, and they found out that there was about 18 per cent reduction of the risk of relapse of breast cancer and 14 per cent decreased mortality risk among those women who changed their treatment to exemestane as to those women who remained in the treatment of tamoxifen.

“The long-term results from our study show that the improvements observed following the switch to exemestane are real and continue for at least five years after finishing treatment. These modest but persistent improvements in overall survival will be welcome news for the many postmenopausal women diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer.”Lead researcher Professor Judith Bliss, Director of the ICR’s Clinical Trials & Statistics Unit, said in conclusion.



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