FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Certain breast cancer patients who switch to the aromatase inhibitor drug anastrozole (Arimidex) after two to three years of treatment with tamoxifen live longer and are more likely to remain cancer-free, German researchers report.
"A lot of people have been waiting to see whether aromatase inhibitors will show a survival advantage, and I think these data will assure them that 5 years of tamoxifen is no longer the standard of care; the best treatment for women with hormone-sensitive early-stage breast cancer should include an aromatase inhibitor," lead author and professor Walter Jonat, University of Kiel, said in a prepared statement.
His team published the findings online Friday in The Lancet medical journal.
Jonat and his colleagues analyzed data from three studies that compared outcomes for postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive early-stage breast cancer who either received tamoxifen for five years or changed to anastrozole after 2 to 3 years of tamoxifen treatment.
"We showed the benefits of switching to anastrozole in terms of disease and recurrence-free survival that have been seen in the individual trials translate into a significant benefit in overall survival," Jonat said.
More research is needed in order to answer a number of questions, he said, including optimal length of treatment; whether tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors should be given first; and whether any combination of other drugs may provide even better patient outcomes.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer treatments.