New Finding in Breast Cancer Drug Tamoxifen

We move on to the other big headline. The millions of Americans battling breast cancer getting this news. A new study saying a popular drug used to keep the disease from coming back – Tamoxifen—should be taken twice as long for even better results.

And the news has a lot of doctors saying they are going to change how they treat some of their patients. And ABC chief medical editor Dr. Richard Besser is here to tell us about it. Tamoxifen, we know about it, but a change in the way you use it.

That’s right. This is really big news for hundreds of thousands of women who have breast cancer that is hormone receptor positive. The study out today looked at a drug called Tamoxifen which is a hormone blocker. They gave some women this drug for five years, and some women this drug for ten years. And then they followed them for ten year period. Look at these results, women who were on the drug for 5 years, 25% of them had a recurrence of their cancer.

If you were on it for 10 years, it dropped down to 21%. Very similar numbers, reduction, if you look at breast cancer deaths. 15% for those on for five years, down to 12% for those who were on it for 10 years.

But against of the lay person  we say we want bigger numbers, better numbers, that doesn’t seem like huge change.

Right, I mean the numbers don’t look big, but across the population, that’s thousands of lives. And what it says to cancer researchers is “We may be onto something. This type of drug might be what we’re looking for.”

Well, you have to look at that. The serious side effects are rare: blood clots and uterine cancer. The common side effects, this drug can bring on symptoms that are very much like menopause.

Um, it can cause hot flashes, sweating, fatigue. Some women will stop taking the drug, but I think today’s study may get them to reconsider And what it says is hormone therapy may work if you give it longer.

Give it longer time, and as you said, clinging to anything that says we are on to something here. Thanks so much, Rich.




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