Breast Cancer treatment:
A powerful new breast cancer treatment has produced dramatic results.It greatly improves the chances of surviving the disease and could save thousands of lives.Experts have hailed the drug, called Arimidex, as the biggest step forward in 20 years. Womendiagnosed with early tumours could be taking it as a daily pill by the end of the year.Research findings to be revealed today suggest that drug could prevent threequarters of them from suffering a relapse. It appears to work significantly better than tamoxifen, the current ‘front-line’ drug.Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Britain, affecting about one in ten. There are 39,500 new cases each year and 13,000 deaths.Though drug is about ten times more expensive than tamoxifen, the cost of £1,000 for a year-long course is less than many other drugs.
Beta interferon, for example, to be used to treat 9,000 multiple sclerosis sufferers, costs between £5,000 and £10,000. The overall cost to the NHS would also be reduced because drug does not produce the same level of side-effects needing expensive treatment.Tamoxifen, developed two decades ago, is used to stop patients who have been successfully treated with surgery from developing a new tumour in the other breast.It has helped cut death rates by a third and is estimated to have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.But the latest research findings, from the largest cancer trial ever undertaken, show that post-menopausal women who took drug daily for two and a half years after surgery were 77 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer treatment in the unaffected breast.Using tamoxifen over a similar period cut the risk by 54 per cent.
Dr Jeffrey Tobias of University-College Hospital, London, who is one of the trial investigators, called the results ‘exceptional’.’The reduction in the development of new cancers was very much greater than we had anticipated,’ he said.’This is the first time a largescale clinical trial has proved another treatment superior to tamoxifen.’It marks an important breakthrough in the management of this devastating disease and will be very welcome news for the thousands of post-menopausal women diagnosed with early breast cancer each year.’The international trials of the new drug involved more than 9,300 women, 3,000 of them from the UK. The results will be released today at a conference in Florida of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.drug was also found to be more likely to prevent breast cancer treatment recurring in the same breast or elsewhere in the body after surgery.
Overall, women taking the new drug were about 20 per cent less likely to suffer any sort of relapse.The study also suggests that drug has fewer sideeffects than tamoxifen, which carries a small but significant increased risk of breast cancer treatment of the womb lining.There is about one case in every 200 women using the drug, but drug reduces the risk to around one in every 1,000. It also halves the rate of other problems.Dr Tobias said: ‘This is a real concern in early breast cancer treatment when patients are generally taking the drugs for up to five years.’Although it is very treatable using surgery, many women have to undergo investigations for bleeding that could signal cancer.
Quite apart from the anxiety in human terms, there is a big economic cost in gynaecological interventions.’Like tamoxifen, drug works in women where the hormone oestrogen promotes tumour growth – up to 80 per cent of cases.While tamoxifen blocks oestrogen’s effects on cancer cells, the new drug, called an aromatase inhibitor, shuts down the body’s oestrogen supply altogether.drug is currently licensed for treatment of early breast cancer only in Japan, but manufacturers Astra-Zeneca are expecting early approval of their application for an EU licence.