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Osteoporosis Drug May Help In Breast Cancer Prevention, Study Shows

Posted April 18, 2006

— Breast cancer runs deep in Jeanne Hagen's family. Her mother died of it. Her sister and niece had it.

With that family history, Hagen figured she was at high risk for breast cancer. So, five years ago, she joined a clinical trial of post-menopausal women -- the STAR trial, which compares the preventive benefits of two drugs: Tamoxifen and Raloxifene, also known as Evista, which is also approved to prevent osteoporosis.

A past trial showed Tamoxifen reduces the incidence of breast cancer by 50 percent, but the possible side effects include uterine cancer and blood clots.

"Tamoxifen has not been widely embraced by the general medicine community for this role," said Dr. Stephen Bernard, an oncologoist at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We're not talking about women with breast cancer, but prevention of breast cancer in women who are at high risk."

Because of the possible side effects, Tamoxifen is mainly used to prevent breast cancer recurrence. But the STAR trial showed Raloxifene did as well as Tamoxifen at preventing breast cancer in women at high risk without increasing the risk of uterine cancer or blood clots.

It was a blind study, so Hagen does not know which drug she was taking.

"Well I'm anxious to know what it is, what I'm taking," she said. "I'm curious, and if I took a good one, I hope it's working real good."

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration will now look at the study results. There is no way to know when Reloxifene might be approved for general use in preventing breast cancer.


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