The largest study of the treatment of early breast cancer confirms that the growing practice of combining hormonal and chemotherapy treatments gives patients a much greater chance of survival, scientists say.
The study, a compilation of data involving 75,000 women who participated in 133 trials worldwide, offered information that had not been readily apparent from analyzing individual studies, experts said.The review was limited to women with operable breast cancer.
The analysis was prepared by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's Cancer Studies Unit at Oxford University and will be published in the Jan. 4 and Jan. 11 issues of Lancet, a medical journal.
The study shows that women who receive post-operative treatment combining anti-cancer agents with tamoxifen have a significantly greater chance of surviving 10 years than with other treatments.
More American doctors have been prescribing tamoxifen; but their decisions have been based on small studies that showed merely marginal increases in survival rates, in contrast to the newest, broad survey.
Tamoxifen, also known under the trade name Nolvadex, blocks estrogen, which can stimulate tumor growth. The other drugs in the regime are aimed at killing whatever cancer remains after the mastectomy.
Experts, including Dr. Curtis Mettlin, chief of epidemiologic research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, said although the study would not dictate important changes in treatment, it did provide new information about treatment of early breast cancer.
"When you translate the number of women who benefit from these treatments, it's really impressive," he said.