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Five Years of Tamoxifen To Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence, Then What?

Fox Chase Cancer Center Researchers Study Examestane After Tamoxifen

PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 15, 2003) — Doctors recommend that many postmenopausal women with breast cancer take tamoxifen for five years after treatment to prevent recurrence of their cancer. There is no standard therapy given after five years of tamoxifen, but in a new study at Fox Chase Cancer Center, researchers are testing a drug that would be taken after the completion of tamoxifen for an additional five years.

The drug is called exemestane. Exemestane is one of a group of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase inhibitors are substances that keep the body from making the hormone estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the growth of certain types of breast cancers, so reducing the amount of estrogen the body makes may prevent cancer growth.

"Evidence supports that reducing the amount of estrogen in the body would help prevent cancer recurrence," says Mary Cianfrocca, DO, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase and principal investigator of the trial. "On the other hand, estrogen appears to be important to prevent bone loss and has other benefits as well. We do not know whether the possible benefits of exemestane outweigh its possible risks."

In this clinical trial, sponsored by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), women will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will receive exemestane. The other group will receive a placebo, an inactive sugar pill that looks like exemestane. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the use of exemestane as long-term treatment for breast cancer patients to be investigational and it is unknown what its effect will be.

For more information about this study or other treatment options, please call 1-888-FOX CHASE to speak with an oncology nurse.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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