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Letter Program May Benefit Breast Cancer Patients

Letters may prompt some patients to opt for extended adjuvant letrozole therapy

TUESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A letter notification program targeting women with early-stage breast cancer may prompt some patients to take advantage of extended adjuvant letrozole therapy, researchers report in the Mar. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Heather L. McArthur, M.D., of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues sent letters in February 2005 describing extended adjuvant letrozole therapy to 885 women with stage I-III breast cancer who had completed four to six years of tamoxifen therapy with no documented recurrences.

The investigators found that 305 (36 percent) of the 838 women eligible for letrozole received a prescription before April 2006. Patients most likely to opt for extended adjuvant therapy included those who had tumors larger than 2 centimeters, node-positive disease, or had undergone prior radiotherapy or chemotherapy, the researchers report. Some 65 percent of women under age 70 with node-positive disease opted for letrazole, the report indicates.

"In this population-based setting, extended adjuvant letrozole was more common among younger women with higher-risk disease and more prior therapy, but underutilized overall," the authors conclude. "The reasons for extended therapy underutilization and the role of the letter mail-out strategy in informing breast cancer survivors of new available treatments in other health systems warrant further study."

Several study authors disclosed financial relationship with Novartis, the manufacturers of letrozole, along with various other pharmaceutical companies.

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