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Fred Hutch Study Offers New Option For Breast Cancer Treatment

Ruby de Luna

A new study shows that combining two anti–estrogen drugs in breast cancer treatment helps extend the life of women.


The study focused on women with metastatic breast cancer, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Typically they're treated with different types of anti–estrogen drugs. Doctors would prescribe one kind until the tumor becomes resistant to it, then they would switch to a different one. The idea is to avoid chemotherapy for as long as possible.

But the study suggests another approach. It showed that when patients were given two commonly used drugs at the same time — Arimidex and Faslodex — the combination extended their lives.

Gralow: "The combination resulted in about a six–month average improvement in survival, meaning they lived on average six months longer, and also went longer, obviously, before the tumor started growing again."

Dr. Julie Gralow is director of breast medical oncology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Gralow is one of the co–authors of the study. She says their research offers a new option for women who are dealing with recurring breast cancer.

Gralow : "We certainly have some other options that are quite reasonable as well. But this one could be considered for some of our patients. I would say, ask the oncologist, can you help explain how this might fit in to my different treatment choices?"

Gralow says the combination therapy also shows promise for patients with early stage breast cancer. She and her colleagues hope to conduct additional clinical trials to test this out.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was funded by the National Cancer Institute. Drugs were provided by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.

I'm Ruby de Luna, KUOW News.

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