Bright future for Canadian breast cancer patients

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The future is looking brighter for the one in nine Canadian women who are expected to develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. With recent treatment advances, women with breast cancer have new hope for a cancer-free future. In fact, there are approximately 151,000 Canadian women (or one per cent of the female population) living today who have been previously diagnosed with breast cancer. Furthermore, recent evidence clearly shows that breast cancer has become more of a chronic disease rather than a death sentence.

The current standard practice for women with breast cancer – after initial treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation – is to receive five years of follow-up (adjuvant) treatment with tamoxifen to reduce recurrence. However, clinical studies have shown that women still remain at risk of recurrence beyond five years after initial diagnosis and treatment and that tamoxifen provides no additional benefit after five years of treatment.

The recent landmark Canadian-led international MA-17 trial specifically looked at the benefits of using another medication called Femara¨ (letrozole) in the period following treatment with tamoxifen to reduce the risk of recurrence, metastases and death that women with breast cancer face beyond this five-year period. Results from the trial showed that Femara¨ (letrozole) helped protect women who have completed their tamoxifen (extended adjuvant) treatment.

“Up until now, Canadian women had no further treatment option after taking standard tamoxifen for five years, even though women have significant recurrence risks beyond five years following initial diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Maureen Trudeau, Canadian Oncologist and MA-17 trial investigator. “The results of this trial show that the treatment known as Femara¨ (letrozole) reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence by 43 per cent, spread of the disease to other parts of the body by 39 per cent and increases survival by 39 per cent among women whose cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes – these are things that women with breast cancer face beyond five years.”

With this new treatment option, women are able to benefit from a substantial reduction in breast cancer recurrence and disease spread as well as increased survival with minimal impact on their day-to-day lives.

“Having been through breast cancer it was terrifying to know that, at the end of the basic five years of follow-up treatment with tamoxifen, there was no other treatment option,” said Dorothy Mullins, breast cancer survivor. “Now I am very happy to have participated in the trial involving Femara¨, because it has provided me with an effective treatment after tamoxifen that will reduce the risk of my breast cancer coming back or spreading and will increase my chances of living cancer-free.”