UPDATE 1-US cancer group endorses newer breast cancer drugs

* Women can safely take aromatase inhibitors for 10 years

* Most older patients should consider aromatase inhibitors
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WASHINGTON, July 12 (BestGrowthStock) – The American Society of
Clinical Oncology issued new guidelines on Monday for the use
of hormone-based breast cancer drugs called aromatase
inhibitors.

They said most breast cancer patients past menopause should
consider taking an aromatase inhibitor at some point, either
right after surgery or after two to three years of the drug
tamoxifen.

“Women can take up to five years of an aromatase inhibitor
therapy,” ASCO said in a statement to be published in the
group’s Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Aromatase inhibitors include anastrozole, made by
AstraZeneca (AZN.L: ) under the brand name Arimidex, exemestane,
made by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N: ), under the brand name Aromasin and
Novartis’s (NOVN.VX: ) Femara or letrozole.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death
among U.S. women, after lung cancer. It kills 500,000 people
globally every year and is diagnosed in close to 1.3 million
people globally.

About 75 percent of these cancers are estrogen-receptor
positive, meaning they are driven by hormones. Tamoxifen was
the first drug to block the effects of estrogen and the
aromatase inhibitors are the next generation.

Studies have shown that women who took tamoxifen for 5
years were 50 percent less likely to have their cancer return
and the aromatase inhibitors have similar effects. But if a
breast cancer patient has not gone through menopause, tamoxifen
is the only safe hormone-based drug to take.

“One of the most important treatments for women with
postmenopausal breast cancer is anti-estrogen therapy,” ASCO’s
Dr. Harold Burstein, an oncologist at Harvard Medical School in
Boston, said in a statement.

“Our panel carefully reviewed the explosion of research
that has emerged in the past five years on anti-estrogen drugs,
and filled in gaps in our understanding of how best to use
these newer treatments, and what the trade-offs and side
effects of therapy would be.”

Some studies suggest it is safe to take tamoxifen and an
aromatase inhibitor — usually a pill taken daily — for as
long as 10 years in total, the panel said.

“While the two drug classes work differently, overall, most
women have relatively mild side effects on either drug,” ASCO
added.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; editing by Paul Simao)

UPDATE 1-US cancer group endorses newer breast cancer drugs