Breast cancer drug could further reduce mortality

In collaboration with the Press Association

A study published online in the Lancet suggests breast cancer patients who switch drugs from tamoxifen to exemestane (Aromasin) are more likely to survive the disease. The study compared women who took tamoxifen for five years with women who switched to exemestane after two or three years of taking tamoxifen. According to the research, treating women with tamoxifen reduces the death rate by around 33 per cent while treating women with tamoxifen then switching to exemestane reduces the death rate by around 50 per cent.

If this treatment were rolled out across the UK, it could translate to around 1,300 fewer deaths each year. Lead researcher Professor Charles Coombes, director of the Cancer Research UK Laboratories and head of cancer medicine at Imperial College London, said: "Tamoxifen has already saved the lives of many breast cancer patients.

"Our latest research shows that we can build on that success by treating women first with tamoxifen then switching to the new drug, exemestane. "This is the first time any hormone treatment has been shown to reduce the death rate more than tamoxifen alone. Switching drugs also seems to avoid the side-effects of long-term tamoxifen therapy, such as cancer of the womb and deep vein thrombosis." Cancer Research UK's medical director Professor John Toy said: "These results are really very encouraging because they suggest that a sequence of tamoxifen and exemestane could help reduce breast cancer deaths. "We will continue to follow the results of this study to see how well the women fare in the long-term."