- Young Women’s Support Group
- Study has shown that taking tamoxifen for ten years reduces the number of breast cancer deaths in the second decade after diagnosis
- The results of an international study show that taking Perjeta in combination with chemotherapy and Herceptin can significantly cut death rates over a three-year period
This issue of ‘On the pulse’ is the last of 2012 and so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very merry festive season and fabulous New Year.
The Cancerkin Centre closes on Friday 21st December 2012, re-opening on Wednesday 2nd of January (2013!).
Young Women’s Support Group
Last week we held the last Young Women’s Support Group of 2012, and we were very grateful to be joined by both Tina Kelleher, Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Breast Care Unit at the Royal Free and Lizzie Davies, founder of CanExercise, which helps people to start or get back to exercise after cancer diagnosis or treatment. Tina and Lizzie took questions on a variety of topics, including chemotherapy, lymphoedema and keeping active through treatment.
The session was well attended, including several new members whom we were delighted to welcome to the group, with many commenting on how useful and interesting it was to meet other people with breast cancer, and hear about their experiences.
We would like to thank both Tina and Lizzie for giving their time to speak to our patients.
Our next Young Patient Support Group (for women under the age of 45) will be held on Wednesday 17th January 2012, and our next Patient Support Group will be on 29th January 2013. Lizzie Davies will also be running group exercise sessions at Cancerkin in the New Year. A former oncology nurse, Lizzie’s exercise programmes are specifically designed to support people who are going through treatment or recovering from cancer. If you would like more information on these, or are interesting in attending, please contact Matilda on firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 020 7830 2323.
Study has shown that taking tamoxifen for ten years reduces the number of breast cancer deaths in the second decade after diagnosis
A study published in The Lancet last week has found that ten years of tamoxifen treatment can approximately halve the number of deaths from ER-positive breast cancer during the second decade after diagnosis.
Around three-quarters of women with breast cancer in the UK are diagnosed with oestrogen-receptor positive (ER+) disease, which is driven by the female hormone oestrogen. After any surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, many women receive some years of endocrine treatment with a drug like tamoxifen or with an aromatase inhibitor, to prevent any remaining cancer cells being ‘re-fuelled’ by oestrogen.
The current standard duration of tamoxifen treatment – taken daily for five years – has already been shown to reduce death rates by around a third throughout the first 15 years after diagnosis, as the protective effects continue for at least a decade after the five years of treatment has ended. The new trial investigated whether continuing to take tamoxifen for a total of ten years would reduce the breast cancer death rate still further.
The international study, funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council, studied 6,847 women with ER+ breast cancer, half of whom were given tamoxifen for the standard five year period and half who continued with the drug until the 10 year mark.
Throughout the first decade there was little difference in outcome between the two groups, as both were protected by the first five years of treatment. But, after year 10, the additional benefits of longer treatment emerged in the group that continued taking tamoxifen, including reducing the risk of dying during the second decade from breast cancer by a further 25%, on top of the major benefits from the first five years of treatment.
Most of the extra protection from taking the drug longer came after the end of the 10-year treatment period.
In post-menopausal women, tamoxifen increases the risk of endometrial – or womb – cancer. The results showed that the extra risk of dying from this disease was two per thousand women who took tamoxifen for five years and four per thousand women who took tamoxifen for 10 years. The reduction in the numbers of death from breast cancer after 10 years of tamoxifen were about 30 times as great as the increase in the number of endometrial cancer deaths.
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, said: “This important study adds further clarity to the question about the length of time women should take tamoxifen. Although treatment for hormone receptor positive breast cancer has become more complex in recent years with some women receiving aromatase inhibitors, these results will help in deciding the length of treatment for women who are prescribed tamoxifen alone.”
The results of an international study show that taking Perjeta in combination with chemotherapy and Herceptin can significantly cut death rates over a three-year period
Data presented at the San Antonio breast cancer conference last week showing that Perjeta (pertuzumab) can prolong the lives of people with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer.
The study found that Perjeta significantly cut death rates over a three-year period, when used in combination with chemotherapy and another drug called Herceptin. Among patients with advanced breast cancer, the chance of dying over that timeframe dropped from 50 per cent to 33 per cent – a relative reduction of a third.
Both Herceptin and Perjeta are only suitable for women with HER2-positive breast cancer, as they both work by blocking signals that HER ‘receptors’ send out to make cells divide uncontrollably. HER2-postive breast cancer accounts for approximately a quarter of all breast cancer cases.
Clinical Director at Breast Cancer Care, Emma Pennery, commented: “These results highlight the potential gains that can be achieved from developing new ways to treat HER2-positive advanced breast cancer.”
“Using two HER2-targeted drugs together could offer an effective new treatment option and will be welcomed by patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and their families.”
Dr Rachel Greig, from Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This is very promising data and good news for treatment of this type of advance breast cancer.”
“Although it is not a cure it can help women survive longer and significantly extend the time a patient is able to control the growth of their disease. We hope it can be made available to UK patients as soon as possible.”