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Estrogen-Lowering Drugs Reduce Mastectomy Rates For Breast Cancer Patients

Posted May 10 2011 7:29am

In the first large trial of its kind in the United States, researchers have shown that estrogen-lowering drugs can shrink tumors and reduce mastectomy rates for patients with stage 2 or 3 breast cancer.

Patients with these larger breast tumors have two options, says Matthew J. Ellis, MD, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and principal investigator of the trial conducted by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group. “One option is to undergo mastectomy. The second is to receive medication before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor so that breast-conserving surgery becomes possible,” he says.

Those who choose the second option usually receive chemotherapy. But now, Ellis and colleagues have shown that post-menopausal women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer can benefit from a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors that lower the amount of estrogen in the body. Since estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers feed off estrogen, aromatase inhibitors can slow or stop the growth of these tumors in women who have undergone menopause.

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