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Study helps eliminate causes for joint pain linked to commonly used breast cancer drugs
Date:11/10/2011

Washington, D.C. Researchers exploring why some women who take a common breast cancer drug develop serious joint pain have eliminated two possible causes: inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease. Because of these findings, researchers say women should be encouraged to continue taking the medication to gain its full benefit.

The study is published online Nov. 11 in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Preliminary findings were presented in 2010 at the 74th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

For many post-menopausal women with breast cancer promoted by the hormone estrogen, aromatase inhibitors (AI) can dramatically reduce the risk of their cancer coming back. Doctors say the AIs must be taken for five years to gain the full benefit, however, the development of joint complaints in up to 35 percent of women forces many of them to stop early out of concern that the pain signals a more serious condition.

"It's not clear why joint symptoms occur with AI use, but we wondered if it could be related to inflammation or an autoimmune disease," says rheumatologist Victoria K Shanmugam, MBBS, MRCP, assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, and the study's lead author. "Our research ruled out both."

Forty-eight postmenopausal women with state I, II or III breast cancer treated at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center were invited to take part in the study. All had hand pain and no known autoimmune disease. Of them, 25 women were taking AIs; 23 women were not taking AIs.

Subjects were evaluated after abstaining from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for 48 hours. Signs of inflammation from arthritis would reappear in that time frame, the researchers reasoned. All the women completed a health assessment questionnaire. The rheumatologist conducted a personal history and physical examination with each patient. Various blood tests
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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