Hormonal therapy

By | Science & Technology
Tamoxifen may be a cure for breast cancer. Credit@ National Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer patients were embraced with the recent announcement of cancer medication Tamoxifen reducing the recurrence of breast cancer in patients following a prolonged 10 year period of using the drug.

Tamoxifen is a ‘hormonal therapy’ used regularly in the treatment of Breast Cancer. The drug itself works by preventing oestrogen from entering the cell’s receptors found externally on breast cancer cells and within the cell’s cytoplasm and nucleus. Tamoxifen may be only beneficial in women with ‘oestrogen-receptor positive (ER-positive)’ breast cancers. Oestrogen fuels cancer progression due to cell division which takes place within the receptors of the cells.

Estimates of over 50,000 women in the UK are affected by breast cancer each year. The probability primarily increases with age, although reports of cases relating to family history of breast cancer are common. Tamoxifen is a notable medication used in the treatment of breast cancer although drugs such as Raloxifene and Toremifene are currently in use also.

A recent study by Cancer Research UK reported that taking the drug for a prolonged period, as opposed to the previous five, nearly halved the chance of recurrence of tumor growth amongst people dealing with cancer.Around 7000 women participated in the study, which gave evidence that 580 out of 3,468 women enduring breast cancer received Tamoxifen as a treatment for ten years whereas 672 of 3485 women ceased after the original suggestion of five.

25% of patients who had chosen to take Tamoxifen for the full ten year period, were said to have faced a reduced number of recurrences of cancer than those who took the treatment for only 10 years. This was in addition to a reduction in the mortality rate of enduring in receipt of the drug for the lengthened period of time.

There have been questions previously amongst researchers over the use of Tamoxifen in the treatment of cancer, due to reports of side effects. Effects include symptoms such as nausea, hot flushes and weight gain, thrombosis and “tumor flare”. However, Tamoxifen appears to be helping to shape the future for the decline in breast cancer relapse.

The director of research at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Dr Julia Wilson; stated in a recent interview that:

“These findings are extremely exciting for women who are diagnosed with the most common type of breast cancer.Tamoxifen is a well established and affordable treatment, which means the guidelines for usage should be easy to amend. We do however encourage all women taking this treatment to speak to their doctor about their individual circumstances as there [may] be effects involved.”

Despite more research still needing to be made, the change in treatment is currently being supported by many primary healthcare professionals. The Professor of Medical Statistics at Oxford University, Dr. Richard Gray confessed that “Until now, there have been doubts whether continuing Tamoxifen beyond five years is worthwhile.”

Earlier this week, The American Society of Clinical Oncology hosted a conference in Chicago following the recent development in the advantages of Tamoxifen. The results echoed the beliefs in previous statements from researchers involved with the medical trial and reiterated the general view of the benefits of the drug decidedly outweighing the objections to the drug’s side effects.

Although research has yet to obtain a cure for medical conditions such a breast cancer, studies such as this are proof that progression is being made.

How might increasing government funding, create more flexibility for scientists and aide them in research and testing?

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