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Discovery Could Produce Tamoxifen Alternative

Fast-acting pathway may have fewer side effects

FRIDAY, Nov. 19, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A fast-acting pathway used by the drug tamoxifen to kill damaged breast cells before they become cancerous has been identified by scientists at Duke University.

This newly identified pathway is more direct than an already recognized slow-acting pathway that activates genes inside the nuclei of breast cancer cells. It's believed the activation of these genes causes side effects such as hot flashes, mood swings, blot clots, stroke, and sleep changes.

Even though tamoxifen is currently a front-line breast cancer prevention drug, millions of women refuse to take it because of the side effects.

Identification of this direct, fast-acting pathway may help scientists develop new breast cancer prevention drugs that don't cause the side effects of tamoxifen.

"Our ability to prevent breast cancer is highly dependent upon developing ways to kill damaged cells before they have a chance to become cancerous. But at the same time, we need to find drugs that have acceptable side effects," study author Dr. Victoria Seewaldt said in a prepared statement.

"The discovery of this new pathway enhances our ability to find better drugs that utilize this fast-acting pathway and thus avoid triggering the lengthy and complex cellular pathways that trigger side effects," she said.

The study appears in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Oncogene.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about tamoxifen.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Nov. 18, 2004
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