In a ‘landmark study’, drug Anastrozole halves the incidence of breast cancer – with fewer side effects than its competitors.
During a trial on 4,000 women with a high-risk of developing the disease, researchers at the Queen Mary University of London found that Anastrozole more than halved the development of breast cancer, with virtually no side effects.
The drug, which stops oestrogen being produced, proved to be more successful with fewer side effects than similar treatments such as tamoxifen. Lead researcher Prof Jack Cuzick hailed it as an “exciting moment” for breast cancer treatment, and suggested there was now enough evidence to make the drug widely available.
While Anastrozole would only be suitable for women with a high-risk of breast cancer post-menopause, it is believed it would help around 240,000 women currently on other treatments.
Prof Montserrat Garcia-Closas, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said the positive conclusion of the study was a “very significant and very important finding.”
“It adds very important evidence for recommending the drug as an alternative to tamoxifen. We now need to identify those women at highest risk who will benefit the most from this treatment.”
Dr Caitlin Palframan, the head of policy at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, suggested that “the challenge will be ensuring drugs like these are actually offered on the NHS”.
Drugs for use on the NHS have to be approved by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). In response to the findings, NICE spokesman Prof Mark Baker said: “we will certainly consider this research – along with all other available evidence – when the NICE guideline on familial breast cancer is next updated.”