FRIDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The breast cancer drug letrozole, marketed as Femara, may be more effective than tamoxifen at preventing the return of breast cancer and improving survival among older women with hormone-sensitive breast cancers, a new study reports.
In the study, published online Oct. 21 in The Lancet Oncology, the researchers updated data from an ongoing study of about 8,000 women, which compares the two drugs alone as well as the use of both Femara and tamoxifen sequentially.
Femara outperformed tamoxifen in terms of breast cancer recurrence and survival, the study found. Moreover, giving Femara alone to women was more effective than giving it sequentially following tamoxifen. The new study was partially funded by Novartis, the drug company that makes Femara.
The hormone estrogen feeds hormone-sensitive cancers, and blocking it may help stave off a recurrence. Femara is part of a class of breast cancer drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. These drugs block the body's production of estrogen via the enzyme aromatase. Tamoxifen is a selective estrogen receptor modulator, which means that it acts like estrogen in certain tissues, but not in others, namely the breast. Aromatase inhibitors are given alone or in combination with tamoxifen.
After an average eight years of follow-up, the team of researchers from the United States, Europe and Australia found that women who took Femara for five years after breast cancer treatment had a "20 percent reduced risk of their breast cancer coming back and were 21 percent less likely to die, compared with women given tamoxifen alone," one of the lead authors of the study, Meredith Regan of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, explained in a journal news release.
Neither sequential treatment of tamoxifen followed by Femara, or in the reverse order, significantly decreased the likelihood of re
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