An NHS statement released today, and as reported in The Guardian, explains how thousands of women at an increased risk of breast cancer could now benefit from a proven risk-reducing drug, after it was licensed to help prevent the disease.
Anastrozole, which has been used for many years as a breast cancer treatment, has today been licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a preventive option – which it is hoped could help prevent around 2,000 cases of breast cancer in England, while saving the NHS around £15 million in treatment costs.
The drug has been shown in trials to reduce the incidence of the disease in post-menopausal women at increased risk of the disease by almost 50%.
It was first recommended as a preventive option by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2017, however, with the treatment being unlicensed in this use, not many people had benefitted from it. In an earlier blog, we discussed how previous ground-breaking research published in 2019 found that the drug continued to reduce the risk of breast cancer, even 10 years after treatment with the drug had ended.
Fast forward to now, and thanks to a pioneering Medicines Repurposing Programme led by NHS England, the drug has today been granted a new indication by the MHRA as a preventive option for women at increased risk, including those with a significant family history of the disease.
The treatment is taken as a 1mg tablet, once a day for 5 years. Anastrozole blocks the production of the hormone oestrogen, which fuels the growth of many breast cancers.
As with most medicines there may be common side effects, which include hot flushes, feeling weak, pain/stiffness in the joints, arthritis, skin rash, nausea, headache, osteoporosis, and depression.