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Certain drugs may reduce incidence of breast cancer

October 20, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

For women who are at a higher-than-average risk for developing breast cancer, research is being done to determine if drugs can reduce the incidence of breast cancer. One way results can be determined is through clinical trials to research ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

According to Patty Hanson, director of the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at Robinwood Medical Center in Hagers-town, clinical trials may help reduce the side effects from treatment, lower the risk of developing cancer, improve quality of life and increase survival rates.

Every step in a clinical trial is planned before the trial begins. Scientific and ethical principles are followed. Patients in clinical trials are among the first to receive new treatments before they are widely available. Participation in a clinical trial is on a volunteer basis. To participate, patients must meet eligibility requirements; they are carefully screened.

Clinical trials are usually held at large treatment centers or by groups of physicians who pool their patients together. The John R. Marsh Cancer Center is working with Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Study of Tamoxifen And Taloxifene. STAR is a breast cancer prevention trial being conducted by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project and is supported by the National Cancer Institute. The drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene will be compared for their effectiveness in reducing the occurrence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women age 35 and older who are at greater than average risk for developing the disease.

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During the clinical trial, health professionals monitor and regularly examine participants. Tamoxifen has been studied for more than 20 years and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for reducing the incidence of invasive breast cancer in women. Raloxifene has been approved by the FDA for the prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, and it has been suggested that it may have the same ability as tamoxifen to reduce the incidence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women - with fewer side effects.

For more information on clinical trials for breast cancer, call the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at 301-665-4650.

- Sources: University of Maryland Statewide Health Network and National Cancer Institute

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