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Age Determines Symptoms Experienced In Some Breast Cancer Drugs

First Posted: Dec 11, 2015 05:28 PM EST

Age may affect how well some breast cancer drugs work, according to a recent study.

UCLA researchers analyzed the long-term outcomes in postmenopausal women who took the drugs anastrozole and tamoxifen--two widely used breast cancer treatments. They found that while both drugs proved safe and effective--with no effect on overall quality of life--the severity of some symptoms associated with the drugs' use were linked to age.

"Both of these drugs are excellent and can reduce the risk for breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal women with DCIS that is hormone receptor positive," said lead study author Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center's Prevention and Control Research program, in a news release. "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."

During the study, researchers examined data from 1,193 patients enrolled in a phase 3 clinical trial involving the medications in postmenopausal women with ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS) who underwent lumpectomy plus radiation; this is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts. 

Researchers assessed the experiences of postmenopausal women taking the drugs in terms of their physical and emotional functioning (quality of life) and various symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and muscle and joint aches and pains. Patients older and younger than 60 years of age were analyzed in separate groups.

Findings showed that those who took tamoxifen had more severe hot flashes, while those on anastrozole reported greater severity of vaginal dryness and muscle and joint pains. However, many of the associated-symptoms, including vaginal problems, weight problems, hot flashes and gynecological symptoms, were worse in No difference was found between the drugs regarding overall quality of life or increased risk of depression.

The study is published in the journal The Lancet.

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