Combination Breast Cancer Drug Lifts Survival Rates In Study

A recent study has shown that women with metastatic breast cancer who take a combination of two estrogen-blocking drugs were able to survive at least six months longer than those who were treated with one drug followed by the other.

The Seattle Times reports that this is the first time such a drastic improvement has been seen in trials of first-line hormonal therapy when combating metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Julie Gralow, director of breast medical oncology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and co-author of the study, stated:

“We’re finding a lot of other ways of treating these estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers that don’t include chemotherapy.”

The two drugs, anastrozole (brand name Arimidex) and fulvestrant (brand name Faslodex), are called endocrine therapies, because they work through action on a hormone (estrogen). Gralow explained that about three-quarters of women who have breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer have tumors that respond to estrogen. These two drugs are effective, because anastrozole stops estrogen synthesis and fulvestrant works on estrogen receptors.

Gralow added that, while these therapies will not cure breast cancer yet, they are making a lot of progress in the area of endocrine therapies and breast cancer drugs. She stated:

“We’re trying to get away from toxic, nonspecific therapies, like chemotherapy, and better understand how we can affect the estrogen receptors and its pathways and get even better results than with chemo, with fewer side effects. That’s where we’re going in treating breast cancer.”

RTT News reports that Dr. Kathy Albain, the study’s lead researcher, along with her team, studied 707 post-menopausal women with hormone-receptor positive metastatic breast cancer. They discovered that, on average, women who received both breast cancer drugs lived 6.4 months longer than those who received one. Albain stated:

“This study is the first to show that combination hormonal therapy alone without chemotherapy improves survival in advanced breast cancer. This most likely will change the standard of care for how we treat these patients.”