From the Director

February 28, 2013 at 10:59 pm 1 comment


Elly Cohen, Ph.D., BCT Director

When my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 1978, her doctor told her about tamoxifen, a drug that had been recently approved for women with estrogen sensitive tumors. Unfortunately, her tumor was ER-negative and, despite chemotherapy, she died less than a year later. Twenty years later, when I was diagnosed with stage 1, ER-positive breast cancer, tamoxifen was being used for early-stage patients too. That’s because in 1986 a clinical trial showed that tamoxifen lowered the risk of recurrence in patients like me. The studies also had showed that five years of tamoxifen provided the most benefit.

So, I was surprised and confused when a large study presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium found that it was better for women to take 10 years of tamoxifen than five. How could the findings from the ATLAS study be so different from the evidence upon which my treatment was based?

That’s why we decided to focus this issue of our newsletter on the ATLAS trial. We wanted not only to clarify the findings, but also to give an example of how research is a continuous process of learning and improvement.

There is little doubt that over the next decade clinical trials now underway will tell us more about how to best use hormone therapies to treat breast cancer. We may also identify drugs that can get tumors to overcome resistance to hormone therapy, so that these therapies can be used longer. You can see all of the hormone therapy trials we have listed on BCT here. We encourage you to forward that link on to anyone you know who might be interested in these trials.

And if you haven’t yet done so, “like” us on Facebook. Each week, we post every new trial we have listed on BCT.

Entry filed under: From the Director, Personal Stories, Tamoxifen.

ATLAS: When Research Changes Practice Calendar/Events: Summer 2013

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Elisa Schwartz  |  March 2, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Hi Elly, Thanks for the good articles. My best friend ,also an Ellie, took Tam for 13+ years back in our day. Very unusual. Her Doc in NYC told her to continue as the answers were unclear. She had family history and pos nodes so after chemo[then CMF] she started Tam. The minute she stopped she had a recurrence.She died a few years later in 2010. So I have always thought about this over the years and I guess her Doc was bold and right. She was diagnosed in 1991 at age 49.
    For me, it turns out I was Triple negative, not called that in 1995. I only had 4 AC[unusual then to be used as adjuvant therapy especially in node neg. post menopausal women} No taxol yet. But here I am and today the therapy is so much harder and longer and I wonder if it is necessary.The women seem to suffer so much. I hope it is proven worthwhile
    So thanks for a good job keeping us informed. Bambi Schwartz


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