Drug Used to Treat Breast Cancer May Actually Prevent It
New research is suggestive of new uses for a (relatively) old drug, used to treat breast cancer. Exemestane, which goes under the trade name Aromasin, belongs to a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase inhibitors have long been used as adjuvant treatment for breast cancer tumors which are fueled by the hormone estrogen. Essentially, exemestane has been used as an estrogen-blocker, to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer in women with early symptoms, whose tumors are responsive to estrogen.
In a study which has been published in the June edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers examined the effectiveness of exemestane in reducing the incidence of invasive breast cancer in women. Participants in this randomly controlled trial were assigned to take either exemestane or placebo. After approximately three years of treatment, it was found that women taking exemestane had an approximately 65% relative reduction in incidence of invasive breast cancer. There was no significant difference in side effects between the placebo and exemestane treatment groups.
Breast cancer continues to be a very common cancer in women. According to breastcancer.org, 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Medical advances in breast cancer treatment have improved outcomes for women with this disease. Death rates have steadily decreased since 1980. However, despite this, the incidence of the disease has remained stubbornly high. While researchers are aware of many risk factors associated with breast cancer (e.g., genetics, excess body weight, age), there have been relatively few treatment modalities which have been shown to reduce the incidence of this disease. This recent study is suggestive of a promising approach which may help to minimize the effect of this devastating disease.