- Goodbye Sophie
- Scientists develop a tamoxifen gel which could be as effective as the pill form, with fewer side effects
This week we say goodbye to Sophie Wagener, who has been with us as an intern for the past eight weeks. Sophie was placed with us through IES Interns and she has been a huge asset to Cancerkin: welcoming patients, answering calls, assisting with fundraising, helping our East London team to run their complementary therapy sessions, doing useful research and much more! Always friendly, we know she will be missed by our patients as well us. Sophie returns to the USA to continue her studies at Bates University and we wish her every success and happiness in the future.
Scientists develop a tamoxifen gel which could be as effective as the pill form, with fewer side effects
A study published in Clinical Cancer Research has found that a tamoxifen gel could be as effective as tamoxifen pills, with fewer side-effects.
Tamoxifen is a hormone therapy which is usually prescribed for people whose cancer is ER positive. It comes as a tablet (or a liquid) which is taken orally on a daily basis, normally for 5 years, to lower the risk of breast cancer recurring after surgery or developing in the other breast. It also can be prescribed to women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer as a preventative measure. However, side effects are common, with more than 10 in every 100 people suffering from at least one of the following: hot flushes and sweats; changes in their periods; fatigue; feeling lightheaded; eye problems. Other, less common, side effects include weight gain, nausea, depression, blood clots and womb cancer. Because of these, some women are put off taking tamoxifen, or stop taking the drug before prescribed.
Scientists from the US therefore tested applying a gel form of tamoxifen to the breasts of women with the non-invasive cancer ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), with the aim of concentrating the drug in the breast, where it was needed, whilst minimising exposure to the rest of the body. The study compared the effects of the gel, 4-OHT, with oral tamoxifen. 26 women took part in the study: 13 women took tamoxifen orally and the other half received the gel. Both groups of women took or applied the tamoxifen daily.
The study found that after six to 10 weeks, the reduction in a marker for cancer cell growth in breast tissue was similar for both oral and gel tamoxifen. They also found equal amounts of 4-OHT present in the breast tissue of patients who used the gel or took tamoxifen orally. However, the blood levels of 4-OHT were more than five times lower in those who used the gel. This reduction in the levels of 4-OHT in the blood was also correlated with a reduction in the proteins which cause blood clots.
Dr Caroline Dalton, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “We know that tamoxifen is a highly effective drug for both treating breast cancer and also, as recently recommended, for preventative use in those at high risk of breast cancer because of their family history. While tamoxifen use for breast cancer prevention has been described as a game changer, the side effects associated with the drug do put some women off taking it, so this research is promising.
“The study showed that women who applied the gel had similar levels of tamoxifen in the breast tissue to those taking the pill version, which is the normal form in which the drug is taken, and lower levels of the drug in their blood – which could lead to fewer side effects.
“Although these findings are very interesting, the research was conducted over a short time period on a small group of women who already had an early form of breast cancer. Results have not yet proved that tamoxifen gel can prevent breast cancer or that there will be fewer side effects compared to the pill form.
“Once more research has been carried out and we begin to see further results, this could be an exciting development for breast cancer prevention in those at higher risk in the future.”