Newswise — It was a good year in women's health, notably breast cancer treatment and detection. The December issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource hails these important advances of 2005.
Breast cancer treatment
The results of several clinical trials established the value of two types of breast cancer drugs in preventing breast cancer recurrence, significantly improving disease-free survival rates.
In two large clinical trials, trastuzumab (Herceptin), which has been available for women with advanced breast cancer, was found to help women with early-stage HER-2 positive breast cancer -- an aggressive form of the disease that tends to respond poorly to hormone treatment. Women with early-stage HER-2 positive breast cancer who received Herceptin in combination with standard chemotherapy treatment had a 52 percent decrease in breast cancer recurrence when compared with women receiving chemotherapy alone.
Other studies published this year showed aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are an effective hormone treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone-positive early-stage breast cancer.
That's significant because for at least two decades, the drug tamoxifen has been the gold standard add-on therapy used after initial treatment. Recent clinical trials have shown that AIs, which block an enzyme responsible for producing small amounts of estrogen in postmenopausal women, often show better disease-free survival rates than does tamoxifen alone or when used after several years of tamoxifen or as a first-line therapy for early-stage breast cancer.
Breast cancer detection
Several recent studies have shown that MRI "-- which uses magnetic energy and intravenous material to create detailed images of the breast -- is significantly more sensitive than mammography in detecting breast cancers in high-risk women.
Researchers of a recent study concluded that combining MRI with mammography would pick up twice as many breast cancers in women at high risk. This advance is especially important for women with mutations on genes BRCA1 or BRCA2. They are typically at greater risk of developing breast cancer in their younger years, when dense breast tissue can make mammography X-rays difficult to interpret.