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Landmark Quality of Life Analysis Funded by BCRF Compares Symptoms Resulting from Anastrozole vs. Tamoxifen

By BCRF | December 11, 2015

BCRF grantee Dr. Patricia Ganz led new study presented at SABCS 2015

Patients diagnosed with estrogen receptor-positive DCIS  are typically treated with  surgery to remove the tumor followed by radiotherapy. Afterwards many are given the option of pursuing endocrine therapy, such as anastrazole and tamoxifen to prevent a recurrence. In a presentation at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on Friday, Dr. Patricia Ganz reported new information from a BCRF –supported study on how these therapies impact a patient’s quality of life. 

“This information is for both patients and for doctors to enhance the management of side effects to keep people on therapy – that is the goal,” Ganz said.

The study, published in the Lancet Friday, found that while there were no differences in overall quality of life (QOL), there were variations in symptoms between the two treatment groups

Ganz and colleagues used data from 1,193 patients enrolled in the PRO portion of the NSABP B- 35 trial. The primary goal of the study was to determine whether anastrozole was superior to tamoxifen. Ultimately, anastrozole was found to be slightly better than tamoxifen in terms of breast cancer-free interval, and it was most beneficial in women younger than 60 years old. However those who received anastrozole reported greater muscle aches and pains at the 6-month to 24- month mark as well as greater incidences of vaginal problems than those on tamoxifen. Meanwhile, those on tamoxifen reported higher rates of hot flashes. All symptoms were worse in women younger than 60 years than those 60 years or older.

While both therapies have their share of uncomfortable side effects, the latest study may help physicians choose the best therapy for each patient.

“We have to think about the whole person – the host –when talking about personalized medicine, not just to the tumor,” Ganz said. “Physicians and patients need to use this information along with the main trial outcomes to choose the optimal treatment for each woman. This is part of personalized or precision medicine.”

As an oncologist for over 30 years, Ganz has witnessed firsthand the evolution of breast cancer treatment and care. And as a BCRF grantee since 2001, she credits the Foundation with the ability to turn her ideas sparked by her patients’ experiences in the clinic into hypotheses to prove in her lab.

“BCRF has supported so much of our work that we can now inform new studies,” she said. “I have been able to take my own investigator research and have been able to translate it to new topics and concerns for quality of life.”