Progress in Cancer Research

Large Study Shows Benefits of Femara After Five Years of Tamoxifen

Clinical Trial Comparing Letrozole (Femara®) to Placebo Following Tamoxifen Therapy to Reduce the Risk of Cancer Recurrence Among Post-Menopausal Women Originally Diagnosed with Early-Stage Breast Cancer. The study found that cancer returned much less often in the women taking letrozole compared to those on placebo.

The participants in the study of post-menopausal women who had been treated for early-stage breast cancer and who were given letrozole or a placebo after completing five years of tamoxifen therapy were followed for an average of 2.4 years and for as long as five years. In total, 132 women taking the placebo had their disease recur compared to 75 on letrozole. Overall, letrozole reduced the risk of recurrence by 43 percent so that, after an average of four years, 13 percent of the women on the placebo, but only 7 percent those on letrozole had recurred. These reductions included fewer recurrences in the breast where the original cancer occurred, in the opposite breast and in internal organs.

The results of this study appeared in the advance on-line edition of the New England Journal of Medicine on Oct. 9, 2003.

This study was the first to use an aromatase inhibitor during years five through 10 after a breast cancer diagnosis in patients who had completed five years of treatment with tamoxifen.

** 30 women participated in this study through our MCRC-CCOP network of community hospitals.

National Study on the use of Proscar to prevent prostate cancer in healthy men

In a government-sponsored study released last month, healthy men who took finasteride (Proscar), currently approved to shrink enlarged prostates, experienced 25 percent fewer cases of prostate cancer than those taking a placebo. Overall, 18.4 percent of those taking finasteride got prostate cancer, compared to 24.4 percent on the placebo.

But the study, which involved 9,060 healthy men at least 55 years old, had a surprise: the drug appeared to increase men's risk for developing a less common but much more aggressive appearing prostate tumor. About 6.4 percent of the men in the finasteride group developed these more aggressive appearing tumors, compared to about 5.1 percent in the placebo group, a finding that was considered statistically significant.

** 94 men participated in this study through our MCRC-CCOP network of community hospitals.

Cancer Survivorship Facts

  • 25 years ago, only one child in ten survived cancer. Today, seven out of ten children who develop cancer are alive five years after diagnosis.
  • 20 years ago, testicular cancer (the leading cause of cancer death among young men aged 15 to 35), was almost always fatal. Today, about 90% of men who get testicular cancer are cured.
  • In U.S. women, the overall breast cancer death rate fell 6.3% between 1991 and 1995, and 9.3% in women under age 65. This comes from improvements in both mammography and treatment.
  • The five-year survival rate for localized breast cancer is now 97%.
  • If detected early, uterine cancer has an 83% five-year survival rate and colorectal cancer in women has a 91% survival rate. For cervical cancer, the five-year survival rate is 91% for localized disease. Unfortunately, only about half of cervical cancers are detected early.