BCRF Scientific Leaders Comment on the Use of Drugs for Reducing the Risk of Developing Breast Cancer
Scientific Director Dr. Larry Norton and Chairman of Scientific Advisory Board Dr. Clifford Hudis review the news behind the headlines
The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has formally endorsed the use of two drugs - tamoxifen and raloxifene - to be used as a means of reducing the chances of a healthy woman ages 40 to 70 of developing breast cancer. The data supporting their decision are not new but are rather the mature results of two very large clinical trials conducted by the National Surgical Breast and Bowel Project and funded by the National Cancer Institute.
As with any medical intervention, there are advantages (reduced risk of breast cancer) and disadvantages (including slight increased risks of blood clotting problems and also endometrial cancer, particularly in woman over age 50) to the use of these drugs, so the value of the USPSTF review is their erudite and unbiased balancing of these factors. In that context they emphasize that such treatment requires individualization because a small number of patients have medical reasons to avoid these drugs. Their endorsement is important for many reasons. It highlights an important result of years of careful clinical and laboratory research, that it is possible to reduce the incidence of some breast cancers using reasonably safe and broadly available medicines. This could not only be helpful to many woman who are determined to be at elevated risk of developing breast cancer, but it demonstrates the value and potential of translational and clinical research. BCRF investigators are involved in several projects aimed at better defining the risk of developing breast cancer and in improving prevention strategies, both by life-style changes and innovative medical interventions.
Read an evaluation of the USPSTF recommendations in The New York Times