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Late treatment with letrozole can reduce breast cancer recurrence risk
Date:3/10/2008

n interim data analysis showed that tumors of women taking letrozole were significantly less likely to recur. The final analysis of MA.17 data, published in the September 7, 2005 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, confirmed that women taking letrozole had significantly better disease-free survival than those taking a placebo.

Since women who received letrozole in the MA.17 trial began taking the drug within a few months of stopping tamoxifen treatment, letrozoles current approval restricts the initiation of therapy to the first three months after tamoxifen discontinuation. However, participants in the placebo arm of the MA.17 trial were offered the opportunity to begin letrozole treatment when that trial was halted, which gave investigators the opportunity to determine whether those women could also benefit from the drug.

The current study analyzes data on more than 1,500 women from the placebo group who chose to take letrozole and about 800 who chose no further treatment. Almost three years after the MA.17 trial was halted and letrozole offered, those who began letrozole therapy had only a 2 percent risk of tumor recurrence, compared with almost 5 percent in those choosing no treatment. The risk of death from breast cancer during that period was cut in half in those receiving letrozole. Treatment also reduced the risk of metastasis by 61 percent and appeared to prevent development of a new tumor in the opposite breast by 82 percent.

The research team notes that this study is limited by the fact that participants choose whether to take the drug themselves and were not randomly assigned. While a randomized clinical trial would more conclusively determine the benefit of letrozole treatment for those who have been off tamoxifen for several months or years or even those who never took the drug the results of this study can help guide physicians and patients in deciding whether letrozole therapy would be appropriate.

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Contact: Stacy Neale
sneale@partners.org
617-643-3907
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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