A class of hormonal drugs called aromatase inhibitors substantially reduce the risk of death in postmenopausal women with the most common type of breast cancer, a major study of more than 30,000 women shows. The research underscores the importance of aromatase inhibitors in the treatment of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer - and shows these drugs reduce risk of death by significantly more than the older hormonal treatment tamoxifen. The study, published online on July 23, 2015 in an open-access article in The Lancet, is relevant to postmenopausal women with ER-positive breast cancer, which accounts for over 80 per cent of cases which occur after menopause. Each trial had used both aromatase inhibitors and tamoxifen at various times during the course of treatment. The article is titled “Aromatase Inhibitors Versus Tamoxifen in Early Breast Cancer: Patient-Level Meta-Analysis of the Randomised Trials.” In the study, researchers from the Aromatase Inhibitors Overview Group - chaired by Professor Mitch Dowsett at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust - collaborated with colleagues at the Clinical Trials Service Unit at The University of Oxford, to combine the results from 31,920 women in nine clinical trials. The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) and conducted under the umbrella of the Early Breast Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group. Aromatase inhibitors suppress the synthesis of estrogens and are taken by postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive (ER-positive) breast cancer. These inhibitors have previously been reported to reduce the risk of recurrence more effectively than tamoxifen, but improvements in survival had not been demonstrated.
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