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New Adjuvant Breast Cancer Treatments Found Cost-effective

Two new studies have found that new adjuvant treatments for breast cancer are cost-effective at improving survival.

Published in the August 1, 2007 issue of Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, the two studies looked at the cost-effectiveness of different drugs for the management of adjuvant therapies for early breast cancer.

In a Canadian economic study of estrogen receptor positive breast cancers, switching from tamoxifen to the oral steroidal aromatase inhibitor exemestane (trade name: Aromasin) enlarged disease free survival at a minimal cost per person.

In another of study of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer, the addition of the anti-HER2 receptor monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab (trade name: Herceptin), is projected to improve life expectancy at a comparatively low cost.

Breast cancer is a major cause of cancer mortality, second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer death in women. The five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer has increased from 80 percent in the 1950s to 98 percent today. As the therapeutic effectiveness of these drugs has been verified and is included in professional treatment guidelines, their cost-effectiveness is being investigated.

Cost-effectiveness is measured not just in life years (LY) gained but is attuned also for the quality of life gained. This combination is expressed as a quality-adjusted life year (QALY). The ratio of cost to QALY is designed to present a quantitative estimate of the cost-effectiveness of a therapy.

A recent study showed that switching from tamoxifen to exemestane after two to three years of tamoxifen considerably improves disease-free survival compared to tamoxifen alone.

Ms. Nancy Risebrough from the Hope Research Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and Dr. Nicole Mittmann from the Hope Research Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences
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