Breast Cancer Treatment Drug Shows New Promise for Prevention
Those at risk for breast cancer may have a new way to prevent the disease: a drug that is already being used to treat it.
According to CNN, researchers have stated that the estrogen-blocking drug Aromasin prevented 65% of women in a clinical trial from contracting breast cancer. Their study, which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, enrolled 4,560 health postmenopausal women at high risk for developing breast cancer. The significant reduction in risk was found after the women had been taking the drug for three years. The research continues as longer-term effects are measured.
Aromasin is an aromatase inhibitor drug, meaning that it blocks the production of estrogen in postmenopausal women. Estrogen has been implicated in facilitating the growth of breast cancer in older women.
Dr. Jennifer Litton, a breast cancer specialist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said that other drugs she prescribes often scare away patients because of their side effects, which include rare cases of uterine cancer. "This is the first study to show that a new class of drugs, aromatase inhibitors, have the ability to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women," she said, adding that she is hopeful Aromasin, which has fewer side-effects, will prove an attractive option to such women.
While the study results showed no serious toxic effects from the drug, doctors like Jose Baselga of Massachusetts General's Cancer Center caution against ignoring the risks involved. Aromatase inhibitor side effects include hot flashes, arthritis, and bone loss. As for prescribing Aromasin, “I would limit it to patients who have very high risks" for getting breast cancer, Baselga said.