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Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
'Wonderdrug' boosts long term survival
The drug Tamoxifen has been credited with saving thousands
Women given the drug Tamoxifen after surgery have a far better long term suvival rate, according to new figures.

The 10 to 15 year survival rate was 26% better among those taking the drug compared to those who were not taking the drug.

And Tamoxifen-takers had a 73% chance of surviving for 15 years.

It shows that the beneficial effects of the drug last years after the women stop taking it.

The new figures were revealed at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels.

The UK was one of the first countries to introduce Tamoxifen, and this has produced marked drop in cancer deaths compared to other European countries.

Deaths from the disease have fallen 30% in the last 20 years - the biggest drop in the world.

Sir Richard Peto, director of the Clinical Trials Services Unit in Oxford, presented the findings.

'Extraordinary figures'

He said: "These figures are extraordinary. No other country has seen such a big decrease in death rates.

"The main change is the way in which treatment can really have effects no just in the first five years but even in the next five years and the five years after that.

"People did no think we would be seeing these kind of benefits after 10 years or 15 years.

"Tamoxifen is probably the biggest single contributor to the fall in the death rate."

Experts have predicted that the long term survival rates will continue to increase in reaction to more widespread use of Tamoxifen over time.

The drug works because some breast cancer cells, like breast cells, are responsive to the hormone oestrogen, and will grow and spread more vigorously in response to it.

Tamoxifen obstructs the part of the cell which bonds with the hormone, stopping it having any effect on the cell.

Sir Richard said that even small changes in the death rate were highly significant, as breast cancer remained an extremely common cancer, responsible for thousands of deaths a year.

He said: "A change in breast cancer treatment cna affect the treatment of more than one million women."

In the UK, more than 35,000 women are newly-diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 13,000 die from the disease.

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19 May 00 | Medical notes
19 May 00 | Health
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