Thursday, 18 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateUK green-lights drug that could slash breast cancer risk

UK green-lights drug that could slash breast cancer risk

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed authorisation of the hormone treatment anastrozol as a preventative treatment for post-menopausal women at moderate or high risk of breast cancer.

The announcement will mean an estimated 289 000 women in England who are at moderate or high risk of breast cancer will, from this week, be able to take the tablet to try to prevent it from developing, NHS bosses said.

Anastrozole is being made available to women who are in greater danger because they have been through menopause and have a major family history of Britain’s commonest form of cancer.

It displays “remarkable” potential to reduce the number of people who go on to develop the disease, the NHS said.

It was already authorised for use in the treatment of breast cancer in post-menopausal women and has been used off-label for prevention.

Evidence was based on the IBIS-II study, an international, randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which showed fewer women developed breast cancer in the anastrozole group compared to the placebo group.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, but younger women can also get it: around one in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

The treatment, taken as a 1mg tablet, once a day for five years, is an aromatase inhibitor that works by reducing the amount of oestrogen a patient’s body makes by blocking an enzyme called aromatase.

The most common side effects of the medicine are hot flushes, feeling weak, pain/stiffness in the joints, arthritis, skin rash, nausea, headache, osteoporosis, and depression.

The move to make anastrozole available to all eligible women represents a potential new frontier in the fight against Britain’s big killers because it is the first time a drug already used to treat a condition has been “repurposed” to prevent the same disease from appearing.

How many cases it prevents depends on how many women decide to use it. But even if just a quarter of the 289 000 newly eligible women decide to take the pill, it could prevent 2 000 of them from being diagnosed with the disease, reports The Guardian.


The Lancet article – Anastrozole for prevention of breast cancer in high-risk postmenopausal women (IBIS-II): an international, double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trial (Open access)


The Guardian article – Drug that can halve breast cancer risk offered to 289,000 women in England (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Significant drop in breast cancer death risk – Oxford study


Older breast cancer patients’ survival unaffected by no radiation – UK study


Medical advances make breast cancer surgery less common – Texas study


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