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Update on Hormonal Therapies from San Antonio

Posted 12/14/2013

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  For many women, hormonal (or anti-estrogen) therapies are the mainstay of systemic treatment for breast cancer. Tamoxifen, the oldest of the group, has been around and helpful since the 1970s. The newer class of these drugs, the aromatase inhibitors, have been used for almost two decades. Obviously, these are only helpful for women with ER (estrogen receptor) positive cancers, but many women with early stage cancers are able to avoid chemotherapy and "only" take these drugs. Others do both. And women with ER positive metastatic/Stage IV cancers appreciate the time, often years, that they can take these pills and avoid standard chemotherapies.

  One of the big news items from this year's SABS (San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium) has been the value of arimidex, one of the AIs, in breast cancer prevention. A trial that put women who had one ER positive breast cancer either on arimidex or a placebo found that women taking arimidex had half the incidence of a second breast cancer in the other breast. This is impressive, but probably not so helpful for those of us who have already been diagnosed. Of course, we are glad for our sisters and daughters and friends that there seems to be another way to try to medically prevent breast cancer for high risk women.

  There have also been a number of reports about the value of the hormonal treatments in general, duration of treatment, combinations, etc. Here is a nice summary from Cure Today; I give you the start and then a link to read more.

SABCS: Advances in hormone therapies for ER-positive breast cancer

The first study I want to discuss is actually a prevention study looking at aromatase inhibitors. This class of drugs has been around for about two decades, but as a treatment for advanced breast cancer first and early-stage breast cancer a little later.

The whole idea began when researchers examined women who were taking aromatase inhibitors (AI) for early-stage breast cancer. They noticed that women on AIs had fewer cancers develop in the opposite breast, which gave them the idea that AIs could be used as a therapy to actually prevent breast cancer.

The study presented on Thursday studied women who were at high-risk for breast cancer who were given either anastrozole, which is an AI, or placebo for five years. Researchers discovered that the AI cut the risk of breast cancer by about half.


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