Breast Cancer Drug Femara Beats Tamoxifen
Better Survival Rates After Surgery and Menopause, Says Drugmaker
WebMD News Archive
How the Drugs Work continued...
More than 8,000 women in 27 countries participated in the study. All had
undergone breast cancer surgery and were postmenopausal. Their breast cancer
was treated early; it hadn't spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes.
The women's tumors were dependent on the hormone estrogen to grow. About
two-thirds of breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, says the ACS.
Typically, women take tamoxifen for about five years. About 500,000 U.S.
women take tamoxifen and 80,000 join their ranks each year.
The women were studied for 26 months, on average. They were assigned to
different treatment plans to see which treatment plan worked best to reduce the
risk of the recurrence of breast cancer.
One group took tamoxifen or Femara for five years. Another group of women
took tamoxifen for two years, followed by three years on Femara. A third group
of women got the opposite approach - two years of Femara followed by three of
The results showed that compared with tamoxifen, Femara cut the risk of
recurrence of breast cancer by 19%.
Femara significantly increased survival free of breast cancer, especially
reducing the risk of the spread of breast cancer to distant parts of the
Women taking Femara were more likely to have bone fractures. Higher
cholesterol was also more common with Femara, though the effect was
"usually mild," says Novartis. Heart attack and stroke were rare with
both drugs but occurred slightly more often with Femara, says Novartis. Femara
should not be taken during pregnancy.
Tamoxifen also had side effects including clotting, vaginal bleeding, and
changes in the womb's lining (the endometrium).