“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."
A trial looking at hormone therapy for advanced breast cancer (SOFEA)
This trial was trying to find out which hormone treatment worked best for post menopausal women who had hormone sensitive breast cancer that had come back or continued to grow following hormone therapy. The trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
Some breast cancer cells have
Anastrozole (Arimidex) is a type of hormone therapy called an aromatase inhibitor. It reduces the amount of oestrogen made in the body. This means that there is less oestrogen to stimulate the oestrogen receptors on the breast cancer cells.
Breast cancer cells can become used to low levels of oestrogen over time. If this happens, the anastrozole may stop working and the cancer can start to grow again. Doctors weren’t sure what the best treatment was when this happens, but they could prescribe a similar hormone treatment called exemestane (Aromasin), or another type of hormone therapy called Fulvestrant (Faslodex).
In this trial the researchers compared 3 treatments
- Fulvestrant and anastrozole
- Fulvestrant and a dummy tablet (
The aim of the trial was to see which is best for advanced breast cancer that is no longer responding to an aromatase inhibitor such as anastrozole.
Summary of results
The trial team found that having a combination of fulvestrant and anastrozole wasn’t any better than having either anastrozole or exemestane alone.
The trial recruited 723 women who were put into treatment groups at random.
- A third had fulvestrant and anastrozole
- A third had fulvestrant and a dummy drug
- A third had had exemestane
The researchers looked at the average length of time the women lived without any signs of their breast cancer getting worse. Researchers call this progression free survival. They found it was
- About 4½ months in the group who had fulvestrant and anastrozole
- About 5 months in the group who had fulvestrant and a dummy drug
- About 3½ months in the group who had exemestane
They also looked at the average length of time women lived overall and found it was
- About 20 months in the group who had fulvestrant and anastrozole
- About 19½ months in the group who had fulvestrant and a dummy drug
- About 21½ months in the group who had exemestane
These results show that there does not appear to be a difference between the 3 groups that is
The side effects for women in all 3 groups included joint pain, tiredness (lethargy), hot flushes and feeling or being sick. But serious side effects were rare.
The researchers concluded that for post menopausal women whose breast cancer had stopped responding to aromatase inhibitors, a combination of fulvestrant and anastrozole was no better than either fulvestrant or exemestane alone.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Prof Stephen Johnston
Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/09/007.