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New hope raised for treatment of cancer.

Byline: By Jane Kirby

A drug used to treat osteoporosis is as effective as tamoxifen in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer, but with fewer side effects, researchers said yesterday.

American scientists studied the effects of raloxifene (Evista) and tamoxifen on more than 19,000 post-menopausal women.

They found that both drugs reduced the risk of developing invasive breast cancer by about 50%.

Women given raloxifene daily, and who were followed for about four years, also had 36% fewer uterine cancers and 29% fewer blood clots than women taking tamoxifen.

Uterine cancers ( especially endometrial cancers ( are known to be a rare but serious side effect of taking tamoxifen, said the researchers, from the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (Star), run by the National Cancer Institute in the US.

Both the drugs are known to increase a woman's risk of developing blood clots.

The five-year study, which featured 19,747 women, is one of the largest breast cancer prevention clinical trials ever carried out.

John Niederhuber, of the institute, said: "This optimistic news from Star is a significant step in breast cancer prevention."

Norman Wolmark, of the US National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, said: "In 1998, the landmark Breast Cancer Prevention Trial showed that tamoxifen could reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women by nearly 50%.

"For post-menopausal women at increased risk of breast cancer, raloxifene is just as effective, without some of the serious side effects known to occur with tamoxifen."

In the study, women taking either drug had equivalent numbers of strokes, heart attacks and bone fractures, and reported the same effects on their quality of life.

Among the 9,745 women in the raloxifene group, 167 developed invasive breast cancer, compared to 163 of 9,726 women in the tamoxifen group.

For those women who had a uterus that had not been removed by surgery, 36 of 4,732 taking tamoxifen developed uterine cancers compared to 23 of 4,712 women who took raloxifene.

Sarah Rawlings, head of policy and information at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "Many healthy women who have a high breast cancer risk want to prevent the disease.

"However, all drugs have side effects. We would like to see more research on who may benefit and the risks they may face by taking either of these drugs for prevention, rather than treatment, before drawing conclusions."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2006
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