Drug Helps Prevent Breast Cancer

Aromasin holds promise for preventing breast cancer in post-menopausal women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A drug currently being used to treat breast cancer has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing the disease. The aromatase inhibitor, Aromasin (exemestane), helps post-menopausal women avoid breast cancer altogether.

A new study found that women who have undergone menopause and have high risk factors for developing breast cancer, were 65 percent less likely to develop the disease when they received the aromatase inhibitor (AI) called Aromasin.

"Ask your doctor if Aromasin may help you prevent breast cancer."

AIs reduce the levels of estrogen in a woman's body by stopping tissues and organs other than the ovaries from producing it. Estrogen is a hormone known to drive the growth of tumors in estrogen receptor postive (ER+) breast cancer, the most common form of the disease.

Estrogen blocking drugs are currently used to treat breast cancer - both before and after surgery.

Two AIs - Nolvadex (tamoxifen) and Evista (raloxifene) are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lower the risk of breast cancer for women at high risk for the disease. However, these two medications carry serious side effects, including higher risks of developing uterine cancer and blood clots.

For the Aromasin study, the 4,560 women participants had one or more risk factors for breast cancer, including being over the age of 60, having abnormal cells in the breast, or having had previous non-invasive breast cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ).

After about three years, women who received the Aromasin were 65 percent less likely to develop invasive breast cancer. The study found that these women were also less likely to develop non-invasive cancer or abnormal cells in the breast.

Participants receiving the medication did have more menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, sweating, fatigue, sleeplessness and joint pain.

Paul E. Goss, MBBCh, PhD, lead study author and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston says this study shows that Aromasin offers hope and promise for preventing breast cancer in menopausal women most commonly affected by the disease.

A similar study is under way for the other major AI, Femara (letrozole).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 5, 2011
Last Updated:
June 7, 2011