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Switching early breast cancer patients to exemestane improves long-term survival
Date:9/21/2009

Berlin, Germany: New research has found that switching post-menopausal women with early breast cancer to the drug exemestane (Aromasin) after two or three years of tamoxifen rather than keeping them on tamoxifen for five years improves the chance of remaining cancer free and reduces the risk of death for at least the next six years.

"These findings have confirmed that the strategy of switching to exemestane mid-way through the five-year tamoxifen treatment plan provides a clear and durable benefit for relapse and overall survival," the study's leader, Professor Charles Coombes, head of oncology at Imperial College in London, told Europe's largest cancer congress, ECCO 15 ESMO 34 [1], in Berlin today (Tuesday 22 September). "We found that six years after changing treatment, women who got exemestane were 18% more likely to remain disease free and were 14% less likely to die than those who stayed on tamoxifen."

Breast cancer is the leading cancer in women, with 1.29 million cases diagnosed worldwide every year. About 75% of breast cancers are oestrogen-receptor positive, meaning that oestrogen plays in important role in promoting the growth. Such tumours are usually treated with anti-oestrogen drugs. Tamoxifen, the oldest of these, blocks the tumour's ability to use oestrogen and is the standard treatment after surgery in women who have early-stage breast cancer. It is normally taken for five years. Exemestane belongs to a newer class of anti-oestrogen drugs known as aromatase inhibitors, which interfere with the function of aromatase, an enzyme responsible for the production of oestrogen. Aromatase inhibitors are accepted as an alternative to tamoxifen for post-menopausal women, but the question of how best to use these drugs remains under investigation.

The study tested whether switching to exemestane after two or three years of tamoxifen was more effective in the long term than continuing with tamoxifen for the remainder of the fiv
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Contact: Emma Ross
rosswrite@mac.com
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation
Source:Eurekalert

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