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Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 16:38 GMT
Cancer pill could ease side effects

Breast scan Breast cancer treatment can have side effects

Scientists are to trial a pill that could help thousands of breast cancer patients in the UK who suffer sideeffects from radiotherapy.

Up to 28 per cent of women in the UK who undergo surgery and radiotherapy for early breast cancer experience side effects, most commonly painful swelling and stiffness in the arm.

Dr John Yarnold and his team from the Royal Marsden Hospital and The Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey are now launching a trial to see whether a mix of commonly used drugs could combat the problem.

One hundred patients will take part in a trial of the drugs, a combination of a very high dose of vitamin E and oxpentifylline, used to treat circulatory diseases, contained in an easy to swallow pill.

Dr Yarnold has identified women from centres across the South East who he believes will be suitable for the study.

Profound benefits

If this trial is successful, it could have profound benefits for up to 10,000 of the 33,000 women annually diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK
Professor Gordon McVie, director general, Cancer Research Campaign
Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign which will fund the study, said: "If this trial is successful, it could have profound benefits for up to 10,000 of the 33,000 women annually diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK.

"It is very exciting research that could expand our knowledge of the side effects of radiotherapy, which for more than a generation has been our main weapon in the treatment of a variety of cancers."

The women participating in the trial will be divided into two groups of 50.

For six months, one group will be given the new drug while the other will receive a placebo. Both groups will be followed for a year to observe any improvements.

Dr Yarnold said: "We are still in the early stages of development but the potential of these drugs is great. If successful, they could have benefits not only for breast cancer patients treated by radiotherapy but for other cancer patients treated by radiotherapy."

Radiation therapy is used following surgery to destroy cancer cells in the lymph-glands under the arm with radioactive beams.

The radiation blitz is designed to destroy multiplying cells which could be cancerous - healthy as well as cancerous cells are sometimes destroyed leading to the development of arm Lymphoedemas.

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See also:
16 Sep 99 |  Health
Breast cancer drug shows great promise
08 Dec 99 |  Health
Prince backs breast cancer blitz
09 Dec 99 |  Health
New breast cancer test discovered
05 Feb 99 |  Health
Best cancer treatment 'a human right'
17 Dec 99 |  Health
Short wait for breast cancer patients
25 Nov 99 |  Health
Microwave hope for breast cancer

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