BREAST CANCER: Gov’t To Launch Big Prevention Trial
President Clinton announced yesterday that the federal government plans to launch the "largest ever" trial comparing two drugs' effect on preventing breast cancer, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. "We all owe it to ourselves and our future to make a sustained commitment to research that, once and for all, can win this war," he said. "I want you to know that I believe that we are within reach of genuine cures and genuine prevention strategies of stunning impact" (10/22). Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said the clinical trial "will be the single most important legacy of the Clinton administration." The National Cancer Institute's Dr. Leslie Ford noted that the FDA has yet to approve the trial, but she said a decision is expected soon ( Reuters/Houston Chronicle, 10/22). If approved, as early as next year more than 20,000 post-menopausal women could take part in the study, which will be conducted at 400 sites nationwide (HHS release, 10/21).
Those Are Some Side Effects
The Wall Street Journal reports that the study will compare Eli Lilly's raloxifene and Zeneca's tamoxifen, both of which have been shown to reduce the chances of breast cancer. An earlier study found that tamoxifen reduced the incidence of breast cancer by "almost half," but brought with it increased chances of endometrial cancer, stroke and blood clots. Raloxifene has not been linked with increased risks of any cancers (10/22). "We know tamoxifen works, and now the question is, is there another drug, like raloxifene, that works just as well but perhaps without the side effects," Ford said. She also noted that Eli Lilly and Zeneca were supplying the trial's drugs for free (Reuters/Houston Chronicle, 10/22). For more information on the trials, call the cancer institute at 1-800-4-CANCER or visit the NCI website at http://cancertrials.nci.nih.gov (HHS release, 10/21). The study is expected to "fill up fast," according to doctors. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Larry Norton said, "We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are candidates for this study and can only benefit from being in it" (Davis, USA Today, 10/22).
Shalala yesterday also "unveiled new efforts to encourage older, low-income black and Hispanic women to get mammogram screenings," the AP/Baltimore Sun reports (10/22). The Health Care Financing Administration and the National Cancer Institute are joining together to increase awareness of the new annual Medicare mammography benefit and the importance of regularly- scheduled screening mammograms. HCFA will also air public service announcements in Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Washington, DC (HHS release, 10/21).