November 6, 2008

Breast Cancer Patients Suffering Side Effects from Hormone Therapy Have Reduced Risk of Recurrence


Breast Cancer Patients Suffering Side Effects from Hormone Therapy Have Reduced Risk of Recurrence

Patients with hormone-positive breast cancer who are treated with hormone therapy and suffer from joint or vasomotor symptoms (contracting or dilating of blood vessels that can affect nerves and muscles) have a reduced risk of a recurrence. These results were recently published in the Lancet Oncology.

Hormone-positive breast cancer refers to cancer that is stimulated to grow from exposure to the female hormones estrogen and/or progesterone. Women with hormone-positive breast cancer most often undergo therapy with hormone therapy or endocrine therapy, a type of therapy in which the cancer cell’s exposure to these hormones is drastically reduced. This decreases the growth-stimulus of cancer cells and significantly reduces the risk of recurrences among these patients.

Common side effects associated with endocrine therapy may include hot flashes, night sweats, and joint symptoms, many of which are a result of lowered estrogen levels in the body.

Researchers from the United Kingdom recently conducted a study to evaluate outcomes among women treated with either tamoxifen (Nolvadex?) or Arimidex? (anastrozole) who experience side effects associated with these therapies. The study includes review of data from the ATAC (Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination) trial, a large trial that included postmenopausal women with hormone-positive early breast cancer who were treated with either Arimidex or tamoxifen.

At nine years follow-up, the following data was reported:

  • Recurrence rates were reduced by 11.4% among women who developed new vasomotor and joint symptoms within the first three months of hormone therapy compared with those who did not develop these side effects.
  • Among women who only developed joint symptoms, recurrence rates were reduced by 10%.
  • Among women who only developed vasomotor symptoms, recurrence rates were reduced by 6%.

The researchers stated that the potential role of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS) used to reduce side effects was not adequately studied to determine if NSAIDs played a role in recurrence reductions. They also stated that these results may provide important incentive for women who are experiencing these side effects to continue their medication.

Reference: Cuzick J, et al. Treatment-emergent endocrine symptoms and the risk of breast cancer recurrence: a retrospective analysis of the ATAC trial. Lancet Oncology. 2008: DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70259-6.

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Stage I Node Negative Breast Cancer, Stages II-III Breast Cancer, Uncategorized