Magazine article Drug Topics

Why Risk It?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Why Risk It?

Article excerpt

Tamoxifen is approved to reduce the incidence of breast cancer in high-risk women

Taking its rightful place in history as the first drug to demonstrate that breast cancer can be prevented, the antiestrogen agent Nolvadex (tamoxifen, Zeneca) has received Food & Drug Administration approval for the reduction in the incidence of the neoplastic disorder in high-risk women.

Used for more than 20 years in the treatment of breast cancer, tamoxifen came into the spotlight after the release of findings from the landmark Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT). In that trial, the drug was shown to provide a 45% reduction in the risk of both invasive and noninvasive forms of breast cancer in healthy women at risk for the disease. More updated results, published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, indicate that the incidence of invasive breast cancer was reduced by 44% in women aged 35 to 49, 51% in women aged 50 to 59, and 55% in those aged 60 and up. Tamoxifen's beneficial effects started as early as the first year of treatment and continued through six years' follow-up in those who began the trial in 1992.

Gerard T. Kennealey, M.D., vp. of clinical affairs at Zeneca, disclosed that the optimal duration of tamoxifen therapy for this indication appears to be approximately five years. And data from long-term trials following women who received tamoxifen for treatment of breast cancer suggest that the beneficial effects of the drug are still present 10 years following treatment.

"We now have a drug that can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, but it's important to remember that tamoxifen does not reduce that risk to zero, and, therefore, women should still heed mammogram recommendations," Kennealey cautioned. Nonetheless, the idea of being able to offer a woman who helplessly watched her female relatives succumb to the deadly cancer a chance to avoid her inherited ill fate appears no less than extraordinary. …

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