Hormone injections improve survival in premenopausal breast cancer patients
Cancer Research UK scientists and their colleagues have shown that treatment with a hormone called goserelin improves long-term survival in premenopausal women with early breast cancer.
Goserelin acts by blocking the production of sex hormones, including oestrogen, which can fuel certain types of breast cancer. It is given in the form of injections.
Previous research has suggested that such hormone therapies may cut deaths and prevent cancer coming back in premenopausal women with the disease.
However, the latest study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is thought to be the first to investigate the long-term impact of goserelin and its effectiveness in comparison to the oestrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen.
Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Trials Centre at University College London recruited 2,706 premenopausal women with breast cancer.
The women were placed randomly in one of four treatment groups - receiving either goserelin (Zoladex), tamoxifen, both drugs or neither drug - for two years.
The researchers found that women who were given goserelin experienced similar outcomes to those who took tamoxifen.
Fifteen years after the start of treatment, there had been 13.9 fewer recurrences per 100 women among those who were given goserelin alone than among those who took neither drug.
There were also 8.5 fewer deaths per 100 women among those who received goserelin on its own than among those who took neither drug.
Women did not benefit significantly from taking both drugs.
The researchers wrote: "In summary, long-term follow-up of our large trial showed that goserelin had a demonstrable effect on survival and recurrence 15 years after starting treatment and is as effective as tamoxifen when each are given for two years.
"It may be that women who are unlikely to complete five years of tamoxifen tablets may prefer two years of goserelin injections."