New Drug May Be Effective in Treating Breast Cancer

Studies presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium indicate that a new class of hormone therapy may replace Tamoxifen in the treatment of certain types of breast cancers. In post-menopausal women with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer and also in post-menopausal women with estrogen-receptor and HER-2 positive breast cancer, data suggests that Femara, a drug developed by the Swiss Pharmaceutical company Novartis, is more effective than the commonly used Tamoxifen in shrinking tumor growth. More importantly, in randomized-double blind studies, paid for in part by Novartis, Femara offered a better survival advantage than Tamoxifen. Side effects are essentially the same for both drugs. Femara is an aromatase inhibitor, a drug that prevents the hormone androgen from being converted to estrogen. Tamoxifen is an anti-estrogen, a drug that blocks the effects of already-existing estrogen from exerting its effects at the cellular level.

Research indicates that all breast cancer is not created equal. Future treatment plans will become more and more individually tailored as scientific advancements reveal more about the particulars of certain types of breast cancer. Therefore, it is critical that basic research and clinical trials continue in order to provide maximal therapeutic options for all women.

The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched an emergency campaign for mifepristone (also known as RU-486 and the abortion pill), an important anti-progesterone drug that blocks the effects of progesterone, at the cellular level. Preliminary studies indicate that mifepristone may be effective in treating certain types of breast cancer. Much basic research and clinical trials have come to a standstill however because anti-abortion forces have made it extremely difficult for scientists to even procure the drug to explore its exciting non-abortion medical potential.


Novartis; Associated Press, 12/11/01; Feminist Majority Foundation

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