You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Doubling cancer treatment time recommended

Press AssociationPress Association 6/06/2016

Research from the Harvard Medical School shows women with the most common type of breast cancer could benefit from doubling to a decade the length of time they stay on key drugs.

The research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago shows women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, which is sensitive to oestrogen, could reduce their chance of the cancer returning if their drug regime was lengthened.

Women who had aromatase inhibitors (AIs) for 10 years, rather than five, were a third less likely to have their cancer return or develop cancer in the other breast, it found.

Lead researcher and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School Paul Goss said the current practice of prescribing AIs for five years should be doubled.

"AIs are now readily available around the world and therefore our results will further improve the outcome of women with breast cancer globally," Prof Goss said.

"It will help tens of thousands of women. It will have an enormous impact."

Prof Goss said the most common recurrence of cancer in the women in the study was "stage four, fatal disease".

Prof Goss said women derived "equal benefit" from staying on AIs for 10 years, regardless if they had received other treatments.

"The important thing is that the AIs should be extended beyond five years to 10 years," he said, adding that women reported no worse quality of life when taking the drugs for longer.

In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1,918 post-menopausal women with early-stage breast cancer were split into two groups of either five or 10 years on AIs.

While there were differences in how many women had their cancer return, and who therefore needed more treatment, there was no overall difference between the groups in how long women lived.

Harold Burstein, associate professor at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University, said women with higher risk breast cancer would benefit the most from the switch.

He said the findings were important for women, adding: "Nobody wants to have a recurrence.

But he said women needed to weigh up the benefits compared with the risk of side-effects, which include hot flushes and sweats, nausea, low libido and nausea.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon