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New drugs help women fight breast cancer

May 18, 1998
Web posted at: 7:45 p.m. EDT (2345 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Several new drugs may help women fight off breast cancer, including a drug originally designed for osteoporosis, while another new drug may help lengthen the lives of terminally ill breast cancer patients.

Raloxifene and tamoxifen both work to prevent breast cancer in certain women. Herceptin can boost the power of ordinary chemotherapy without side effects. Taxol, when added to standard chemotherapy treatments, increases the chance of survival for women whose breast cancer has spread.

Breast Cancer

Dr. Steven Cummings of the University of California San Francisco said a study of 8,000 women found raloxifene reduced the risk of developing breast cancer by 68 percent in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis.

Raloxifene was designed to fight against osteoporosis and is marketed as Evista by Eli Lilly & Co. It has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"These results for 33 months are very good news for women who are concerned about breast cancer and osteoporosis," Cummings said. "Our trial is continuing so we can learn how well Evista prevents breast cancer over the longer term."

Tamoxifen reduces breast cancer risk


Another study found tamoxifen reduced the risk of breast cancer in 45 percent of women at high risk of the disease. High risk was determined by several factors, including age, family, pregnancy history and age at the time of menstruation.

The trial of tamoxifen studied 13,388 healthy women whose risk of contracting cancer was about five times greater than the average women.

"(This data) represents the first step in making the hope of breast cancer prevention a reality," said Dr. Donald Wickerham of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project in Pittsburgh.

The tamoxifen study did find that patients run a small risk of developing endometrial cancer, which is cancer of the lining of the uterus. The risk of blood clots also was higher.

The two studies aren't easily comparable, so a comparison trial of raloxifene and tamoxifen will begin this fall in post-menopausal women at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Both tamoxifen and raloxifene work as selective estrogen receptor modulators, which block the negative actions of estrogen in some tissues such as the breast. They also mimic estrogen's benefits in other tissue.

Tamoxifen is marketed under the name Nolvadex by Zeneca Group Plc.

Taxol helps when breast cancer spreads


The study of Taxol found that adding it to other commonly used chemotherapy drugs increase a women's chances of survival when breast cancer spreads.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that adding Taxol to standard chemotherapy reduced the re-occurrence of breast cancer by 22 percent and decreased the number of deaths by 26 percent.

Women who survived disease-free rose 4 percent to 90 percent when Taxol was added to their chemotherapy treatment. The overall survival rate increased 2 percent to 97 percent compared to those treated without Taxol.

The study followed 3,170 women over two years who had breast cancer that was node-positive -- cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes -- and compared the use of chemotherapy with or without Taxol. The women all had early-stage breast cancer, which means the disease has not progressed to other organs in the body.

"I think this will be widely used by Tuesday," said Dr. Craig Henderson.

However, a second Taxol study found that increasing the dose did not improve survival.

Taxol's generic name is paclitaxel and is marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

The studies were discussed at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Herceptin may help lengthen lives


For breast cancer patients who are terminally ill, scientists have shown they can lengthen their lives with a medicine that thwarts the defective genes causing their disease.

Researchers said Sunday that a new drug, called Herceptin, substantially boosts the power of ordinary chemotherapy and carries none of the usual cancer drug side effects, like nausea and hair loss.

Experts predict that Herceptin will come on the market next fall and could quickly become a standard treatment for the one-quarter or more of breast cancer patients whose tumors are driven by multiple copies of a gene called HER-2.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. About 180,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. It is expected that 43,500 women will die from the disease this year in the United States.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

A study of almost 8,000 women found raloxifene reduced the incidence of breast cancer in post-menopausal women by as much as 70 percent.

Results indicated the drug did not increase the incidence of endometrial or uterine cancer.

Raloxifene is marketed as Evista by Eli Lilly & Co to fight against osteoporosis. It already is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

A comparison trial of raloxifene and tamoxifen will begin this fall in post-menopausal women at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Raloxifene, like tamoxifen, is a selective estrogen receptor modulators, which blocks the negative actions of estrogen in some tissues such as the breast and mimic estrogen's benefits in other tissues such as bones.

Tamoxifen


The tamoxifen trial followed 13,388 healthy women whose risk of contracting cancer was about five times greater than the average woman.

The study found a small risk of some major complications.

Of those who took tamoxifen in the trial, 33 developed endometrial cancer as compared to 14 in the placebo group. The risk of blood clots was also higher. Women under 50 had no excess risk of side effects, the report said.

Tamoxifen is marketed as a cancer drug under the name Nolvadex by Zeneca Group Plc.

A comparison trial of raloxifene and tamoxifen will begin this fall in post-menopausal women at high risk of getting breast cancer.

Tamoxifen, like raloxifene, is a selective estrogen receptor modulators, which blocks the negative actions of estrogen in some tissues such as the breast and mimic estrogen's benefits in other tissues such as bones.

Taxol


The study of 3,170 women over two years with node-positive breast cancer compared the use of standard chemotherapy with and without the addition of Taxol to the regimen.

All of the women in the study had early stage breast cancer, meaning it had not progressed to other organs in the body.

The addition of Taxol to standard chemotherapy reduced the re-occurrence of breast cancer by 22 percent and decreased the number of deaths by 26 percent.

The number of women who survived disease-free rose 4 percent to 90 percent with the addition of Taxol, and the overall survival rate rose 2 percent to 97 percent compared to those treated without Taxol, Henderson said.

Taxol, known generically as paclitaxel, is a widely used chemotherapy agent originally developed from compounds found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree and is marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.






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