December 10, 2005
Breakthrough survival data on Arimidex® released
Post-menopausal women with hormone-sensitive early breast cancer whose tamoxifen treatment is replaced with Arimidex (anastrozole), are likely to reduce their risk of dying by 29%, according to breakthrough new data released today at the San Antonio breast cancer symposium in Texas, USA.1
The results of the latest study, carried out in women who had already taken tamoxifen for two years, show that replacing tamoxifen with anastrozole for the remainder of the five-year treatment period, not only increases the chance of survival, but also almost halves the likelihood of their breast cancer returning.
Survival is the ultimate goal in the treatment of early breast cancer and, to date, anastrozole is the only treatment in its class of aromatase inhibitors to provide this potential benefit over tamoxifen.
Auckland breast cancer specialist Dr Belinda Scott said: "We need to get on and make this sort of treatment available to women in New Zealand. It's internationally recognised and important that it's available."
The data came from an analysis of three key international trials* that were similarly designed to assess, in women already being treated with tamoxifen, whether replacing tamoxifen therapy with anastrozole after two years was more effective than remaining on tamoxifen for the full five-year treatment period.
These results confirm that replacing tamoxifen with anastrozole can significantly reduce the chances of the disease returning or spreading to other parts of the body and ultimately, saves the lives of many women with early breast cancer. In the group of patients who started taking anastrozole, rather than remaining on tamoxifen:
- The risk of dying was reduced by 29% (p=0.0377),
-The risk of the disease returning was reduced by 45% (p<0.0001), and
-The risk of the disease spreading from the breast to other parts of the body was reduced by 39% (p=0.0015).1
In August, PHARMAC began funding Arimidex for New Zealand women with early stage breast cancer, who were unable to take tamoxifen. PHARMAC has since reviewed whether it should extend the funding to enable all women with early-stage breast cancer to access Arimidex as a front-line treatment. In November, PHARMAC announced that its medical advisors had recommended not widening access to Arimidex pending evidence that survival was improved.
“AstraZeneca will be providing their latest evidence to PHARMAC this month and urging it to urgently reconsider its decision not to widen access to Arimidex” said AstraZeneca General Manager Lance Gravatt
In Australia, such funding was approved from 1st December allowing women to access Arimidex from the outset of their treatment.
"New Zealand continues to lag Australia in mortality statistics for breast cancer and other cancers and this gap will continue to exist until access to treatments demonstrated to reduce cancer recurrence and improve survival is given,” said AstraZeneca General Manager Lance Gravatt.
In 2002, Otago University Professor David Skegg released a study showing that New Zealand women with breast cancer were almost twice as likely to die from breast cancer as those in Australia.
Then, he said it was possible New Zealand had lagged behind Australia in implementing new regimes for breast cancer.