News | June 10, 2008

Anti-estrogen Drug Reduces Risk of Invasive Breast Cancer in Older Women

June 11, 2008 - New analysis of a drug approved for osteoporosis prevention and treatment has provided definitive evidence that the medication is also effective as a breast cancer preventative for certain cancers, according to the results of the randomized controlled trial published in the June 10 online issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The trial showed that women who took the drug Raloxifene were less likely to develop invasive, estrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer compared with women who did not take the drug.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. In 2008, to date, 182,460 new cases of female breast cancer have been diagnosed and 40,480 women have died due to breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Raloxifene is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which means that the drug has estrogen-like effects on some tissues, such as bone, but anti-estrogen effects on other tissues such as breast. Previous data from the RUTH (Raloxifene Use for The Heart) Trial, which involved more than 10,000 post-menopausal women participants around the world who had an increased risk of coronary heart disease, showed that the drug did not protect against heart disease but it did reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer by 44 percent. The drug is currently approved by the FDA for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, and invasive breast cancer risk reduction in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or at high risk for breast cancer.

In this paper, researchers reported that, regardless of age, prior hormone use or baseline breast cancer risk, Raloxifene reduced the risk of hormone responsive (ER-positive) breast cancers by at least 50 percent for at least 8 years. Most postmenopausal women with breast cancer have this kind of breast cancer.

Noninvasive cancers confine themselves to the ducts or lobules and do not spread to the surrounding tissues in the breast or other parts of the body. They can develop into or raise the risk for a more serious, invasive cancer. Invasive cancers are more aggressive and have started to break through normal breast tissue barriers and invade surrounding areas.
“This research gives older women facing certain medical decisions another option,” said principal investigator of the trial Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D., chief, division of epidemiology, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, and a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program, UC San Diego School of Medicine. “For example, if a woman at risk for osteoporosis is considering taking medication, and has no history of blood clots or stroke, Raloxifene might be a more appealing option due to its protective role in invasive breast cancer.”

For more information: www.jnci.oxfordjournals.org

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