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Drug may tackle premature breast cancer deaths

29 July 2015 09:24

Those with cancer can still benefit from holidays abroad

Those with cancer can still benefit from holidays abroad

Oestrogen-suppressing drugs significantly reduce the risk of premature death from breast cancer, researchers claim.

Aromatase inhibitors are known to be effective at preventing cancer recurrence.

A new study, which analysed pooled data from nine clinical trials involving 31,920 women, suggests they could also improve survival.

The findings are expected to influence clinical guidelines on prescribing the drugs.


Breast cancer is a very common type of cancer in the UK.

But a diagnosis does not mean people have to put their life on hold.

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New study

Post-menopausal women with hormone-sensitive (ER-positive) breast cancer are eligible for treatment with aromatase inhibitors.

The drugs, which stop tumour growth being fuelled by the hormone oestrogen, reduced the risk of post-menopausal women with ER-positive breast cancer dying within 10 years by 40% compared with no treatment, it was found.

'Substantial impact'

Even though aromatase inhibitors only remove the tiny amount of oestrogen that remains in the circulation of women after the menopause, lead scientist Professor Mitch Dowsett, from the Institute of Cancer Research, says it is enough to have a substantial impact on a wide range of ER-positive tumours.

But aromatase inhibitor treatment is not free of side-effects.

The expert claims it is important to ensure that women with significant side-effects are supported to try to continue to take treatment and fully benefit from it.

The new study looked at the effect on death rates of taking aromatase inhibitors for five years.

Tamoxifen, an older hormonal treatment, has previously been found to lower death rates by 30%.

It does not halt production of oestrogen but blocks the hormone's ability to bind to molecules on cancer cells.

The research is reported in the Lancet medical journal.