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Breast Cancer Health Center

Femara Prevents Breast Cancer Recurrence

Drug Picks Up Where Tamoxifen Leaves Off in Reducing Cancer Risks
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Femara Fights Breast Cancer in the Long Run continued...

After about two and a half years of follow-up, researchers found Femara appeared to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by nearly half (43%) compared with placebo.

Overall, 75 women in the Femara group and 132 in the placebo group developed new breast cancers or other new cancers. Researchers also found a significant difference in the estimated four-year disease-free survival rates between the Femara and placebo users, 93% and 87%, respectively.

Goss says that 6% reduction in breast cancer recurrence risk may also continue to grow with longer duration of treatment with Femara and may have a significant impact on reducing deaths due to breast cancer. But he says the number of breast cancer-related deaths in the study was too small to draw any firm conclusions about that yet.

Although the study was designed to go on for five years, an independent monitoring committee recommended halting the study so as not to endanger the lives of the women on placebo.

How Femara Works

Femara is currently approved by the FDA as a primary treatment for advanced breast cancer and as a secondary treatment for other types of breast cancers. It's part of a class of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors that work by suppressing estrogen production in the body.

Novartis, the pharmaceutical company that makes Femara, is a WebMD sponsor. Other aromatase inhibitors include Arimidex and Aromasin. 

Goss says that as breast cancer cells begin to outwit the protective effects of tamoxifen therapy after long-term use, aromatase inhibitors step in and reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence by lowering estrogen levels in the body and starving hormone-dependent breast cancer cells of the estrogen they need to grow and survive.

Researchers say that even though postmenopausal women's bodies have stopped producing estrogen, residual estrogen remains in fat and other tissues that might eventually trigger a breast cancer recurrence.

Because Femara deprives the body of estrogen, it has also been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis and other hormone-related side effects such as hot flashes. But researchers say the drug was well tolerated in the study and these side effects were generally rare.

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