New Drug May Be More Effective at Preventing Breast Cancer Recurrence

Until recently, doctors often prescribed tamoxifen, an estrogen-blocking drug, to breast cancer survivors to prevent the disease from recurring. However, a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, which takes place in Chicago, suggests that another drug might be more effective. Exemestane, another estrogen-blocking drug, reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by 28 percent and decreased the chances of recurrence by 34 percent when used in clinical trial treatments. These results indicate that exemestane is three times as effective at reducing risk as tamoxifen. 

"For years, tamoxifen has been the standard hormone therapy for preventing breast cancer recurrences in young women with hormone-sensitive disease. These results confirm that exemestane with ovarian function suppression constitutes a valid alternative," study lead author Dr. Olivia Pagani, clinical director of the Breast Unit at the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland in Bellinzona, Switzerland, said in a prepared statement.

Exemestane works by preventing the body from changing hormones into estrogen, a female hormone associated with breast cancer development. Researchers tested the drug in situations in which women also were being treated with ovary suppressants, which prevent the ovaries from functioning. Women who underwent the joint treatment saw a breast cancer survival rate after five years of 91.1 percent. 

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