December 4, 2006
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
UMDNJ Researcher Continues Testing Effects of
Oral Drug in Prevention of Breast Cancer in Healthy Women at High Risk
NEWARK — A women's health researcher at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey invites postmenopausal women who are at high risk of breast cancer to participate in an ongoing study aimed at preventing the disease.
The ExCel study, which is taking place at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, was designed to measure the effectiveness of a new medication's ability to prevent the disease in postmenopausal women who are otherwise healthy but at high risk either because of an age over 60 or a combination of other risk factors. The study is being sponsored at health institutions in Canada the U.S., and Spain by the National Cancer Institute of Canada.
"We will continue evaluating the effects of exemestane on women who are at least 35 years of age, postmenopausal, and at an increased risk of developing breast cancer based on age, family history, age at first menstrual period and age at time of first child's birth," said Dr. Norman L. Lasser, the principal investigator of this current double-blind prevention study. He is a professor of medicine at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and director of the Women's Health Initiative, a 17-year study of women's health issues that was funded by the National Institutes of Health. "In a previous national study, exemestane demonstrated an ability to prevent the occurrence of new cancers in the opposite breast of women with a history of breast cancer, suggesting that the medication may prevent the disease in healthy women too."
Manufactured by Pfizer, Inc., exemestane, known by the trade name, Aromasin, is currently being used worldwide in the treatment of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. According to Dr. Lasser, preliminary outcomes suggest the health benefits of exemestane have outweighed risks.
This medication was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 for treatment of advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women whose tumors had stopped responding to tamoxifen therapy, Dr. Lasser said. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that 32 percent fewer women had a recurrence of breast cancer when they switched to exemestane after two or three years when compared to women who remained on tamoxifen for five years.
"The study also found that twice as many women receiving tamoxifen developed second or new breast cancers than those treated with exemestane," Dr. Lasser said.
Unlike other aromatase inhibitors, exemestane is a steroidal aromatase inactivator, meaning it selectively targets and irreversibly binds to the aromatase enzyme, which is required to produce estrogen, Dr. Lasser explained. Without estrogen, breast cancer cells cannot survive.
Postmenopausal women interested in participating in the ExCel study may call Dr. Lasser’s office for consultation and screening at 973-972-6107. For additional information, call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or visit www.excelstudy.com.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center
in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.