New Drug Vismodegib May Be Treatment Alternative For Women Resistant To Breast Cancer Drug Tamoxifen

7:24 AM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) --  Since it was first approved a generation ago, Tamoxifen has been used to treat millions of women for breast cancer. The problem is, after five years, some women become resistant to the drug, limiting their treatment options. A new study finds there may be an alternative.

After going through radiation and chemo inher battle against breast cancer, Jamie Albert says she's come to appreciate the simple effectiveness of Tamoxifen.

"Tamoxifen is super easy, yeah. I just take a pill every day, just have to make sure I remember and that's no big deal," she shared.

For such a simple therapy, the impact of Tamoxifen has been profound. Not only in treating breast cancer, but preventing it.

Bhuvana Ramaswamy, M.D. at the James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute told us, "It reduces the chances of getting breast cancer banck ina breast cancer patient, about 50%."

But for some women, that protection is only temporary. Doctors say after five years, up to 40% of women develop resistance to Tamoxifen. But a new study from Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center may offer new hope.

In the lab, researchers looked at over 300 human tumors and found the pathway that some cancer cells use to beat Tamoxifen. But they were able to block that pathway and kill those cancer cells by using a new drug called Vismodegib, which like Tamoxifen, is very easy to take and tolerate.

Dr. Ramaswamy explained, "You may have a new treatment combination that is just a pill; both are pills you take. You don't have to lose hair for the most part, and you feel well overall and you have another treatment option."

Best of all, the drug has already been approved for certain skin cancers. Which means it could easily be studied in other diseases as well.

Sarmila Majumder, Ph.D. of the OSCCC said, "We have this drug in the clinic and if we see that this drug is going to help patients with some other cancers, that's a big plus. Then we save so much time."

So far, resistance isn't a problem for Jamie. But if it ever is, she's glad to know scientists are already working to stay one step ahead.

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