Byline: Madeleine Brindley
ONE of the most successful breast cancer treatments could also help to prevent women getting the disease in the first place, the Western Mail can reveal today.
New research has suggested that Tamoxifen, which was developed in Wales, could be given as a preventative to women at high risk of the disease.
Studies are also investigating whether women taking hormone replacement therapy should also be prescribed Tamoxifen.
More than 240 Welsh women have already been involved in an international research study to test the anti-oestrogen drug's ability to prevent breast cancer, which kills more than 700 women in Wales every year.
And 81 are now helping to determine whether a different drug - Arimidex - is better at preventing the disease with fewer side-effects than Tamoxifen. This trial is still recruiting.
The research could give Tamoxifen a new lease of life, more than 30 years after the Welsh cancer charity Tenovus helped develop it.
Dr Ian Lewis, the charity's scientific officer, said yesterday: "Two recent clinical trials have shown Tamoxifen can provide long-term protection from breast cancer in women at a high risk of the disease.
"One of these studies, the International Breast Cancer Intervention Study (IBIS I), showed that even after completion of the five-year treatment schedule, Tamoxifen provided a 29% reduction in the number of breast cancers in the women on the trial.
"Interestingly it has also been found that women on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also benefited from the breast cancer prevention effect of Tamoxifen. Since HRT use has been implicated in increasing a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, a study is currently assessing the benefits of co-treating women on HRT with Tamoxifen.
"Despite its age, Tamoxifen is continuing to surprise us and avail itself of new ways to treat people at risk of disease."
On the results of the IBIS I study, Kate Law, director of clinical trials at Cancer Research UK, said: "These results provide promising news for women at increased risk of breast cancer and are important in furthering our knowledge of the role of Tamoxifen in the prevention of the disease.
"However more data on risks and the cost-effectiveness of Tamoxifen are needed before clinicians can consider recommending the drug as a preventive option."
The Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research in Cardiff started work on Tamoxifen 30 years ago using a unique experimental model developed by the institute to study the role hormones played in breast cancer.
Using this model, the scientists showed for the first time that Tamoxifen could block the uptake of oestrogen by the breast cancer cell and halt tumour growth.
Since then it has been estimated that Tamoxifen has saved the lives of around 30% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer - in Wales more than 2,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year. …