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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Newer Breast Cancer Drugs Aid Survival

Recent Breast Cancer Drugs Have Improved Metastatic Breast Cancer Survival Rates
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 23, 2007 -- Metastatic breast cancer survival rates are up, thanks in part to newer breast cancer drugs, a new study shows.

"Although metastatic breast cancer is still an incurable disease, this study provides optimism for those women who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer today," the study states.

The study doesn't single out any particular drug as the key. Instead, it points to several new medications that debuted during the study period.

Those breast cancer drugs include the aromatase inhibitors Femara, Aromasin, and Arimidex, the biological drug Herceptin, and the chemotherapy drugs Navelbine, Xeloda, Taxol, and Taxotere.

Such advances helped improve metastatic breast cancer survival, Chia's team reports in the Sept. 1 edition of the journal Cancer.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Survival

The new study is based on 2,150 women in British Columbia who were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer between 1991 and 2001. Metastatic breast cancer refers to cancer that has spread beyond the breast.

Newer breast cancer drugs became available during the later part of that period. As metastatic breast cancer patients started taking those drugs, metastatic breast cancer survival improved.

The study shows that 55% of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer from 1991 to 1995 survived for one year, compared with 64% of those diagnosed from 1997 to 1998 and 71% of those diagnosed from 1999 to 2001.

Two-year survival also improved, rising from about 33% of women diagnosed in 1991 to 1995 to about 44% for those diagnosed in the later part of the study.

The researchers considered factors including the women's age, tumor grade, and tumor sensitivity to estrogen.

They conclude that metastatic breast cancer survival rose by about 30% during the study periods. It's not clear if those figures apply to other women with metastatic breast cancer.

In the journal, four of the 10 researchers (including Chia) note receiving lecture fees, honoraria, or grants from various drug companies.

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