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Latest research 04 Jul 2016

10 year aromatase inhibitor treatment may help stop recurrence

An international clinical trial has found that extending aromatase inhibitor treatment from five to ten years provides further protection against breast cancer coming back for some women.

Women with hormone positive (ER+) breast cancer are often recommended hormone therapy, tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor (anastrozole, letrozole or exemestane), for five or more years after their active breast cancer treatment has finished.

Hormone therapies have been shown to be very effective in reducing the risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body, or of a new breast cancer developing in the same or other breast.

Previous research has shown that taking tamoxifen for ten years provides further protection against breast cancer recurring (coming back) and is better than five years for some women. Another large international clinical trial has been conducted to see whether these findings also apply to aromatase inhibitors.

The trial included 1,918 women with hormone positive early breast cancer who had already received five years of hormone therapy treatment, either with tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor (anastrozole, letrozole, exemestane). The women were randomly assigned to receive either five years of Femara or five years of a placebo (a sugar pill which looked like Femara).

After about six years of follow up, the trial has found that taking Femara for 10 years instead of five further reduces the risk of breast cancer recurring (coming back) and of a new cancer being diagnosed in the opposite breast.

The researchers did note that women taking Femara experienced more bone-related side effects, such as bone pain and bone fractures, than women taking the placebo.

Results from this research were presented at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in June.

If you are being treated with tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor, you may wish to talk to your medical oncologist about whether taking hormone therapy for more than 5 years is the best option for you.

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