Extensive Use of Tamoxifen Lowers Mortality Rate, Return of Breast Cancer

Tamoxifen is in the news again.

Tamoxifen is the most widely used drug in the fight against breast cancer. It has become the standard therapy for pre-menopausal women with estrogen hormone receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer.

It is the usual treatment option for early and advanced ER+ breast cancer in pre and post menopausal women. It has also been approved by the FDA for the prevention of breast cancer for those at high risk of developing the disease, and is the most common treatment for male breast cancer as well.

In a study published today in the online Journal thelancet.com, a group of researchers called Adjuvant Tamoxifen: Longer Against Shorter (ATLAS) revealed that in clinical trials, the continued use of Tamoxifen for 10 years, instead of the standard 5 years, produced a lower mortality rate and the incidence of recurrence of breast cancer.

Tamoxifen is an antagonist of the estrogen receptor molecule in breast tissue, and is used as an endocrine based therapy for ER+ breast cancer patients.

Estrogen is essential for breast cancer cells to grow, and estrogen adjoins and stimulates the estrogen receptor in these types of cells. Tamoxifen blocks this adjoinment and activation of the estrogen receptor much the same way as the estrogen itself, and prohibits the estrogen from binding to the cell, blocking the growth of the cancerous cell.

Tamoxifen is one of three drugs in an anti-angiogenetic protocol developed by Dr. Judah Folkman, a researcher at Children’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Folkman discovered in the 1970s that angiogenesis – the growth of new blood vessels – plays a significant role in the development of cancer. Since his discovery, an entirely new field of cancer research has developed. Clinical trials on angiogenesis inhibitors have been underway since 1992 using myriad different drugs.

Women with ER+ breast cancer now have additional treatment options, as tamoxifen, when taken for 10 years, has been proven halve the mortality and recurrence rate for breast cancer survivors.

Article by Jim Donahue

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