In the United Kingdom alone approximately 130 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
Many of the women diagnosed are prescribed the drug Tamoxifen to shrink the tumours prior to surgery and to help lower the risk of the cancer returning.
Tamoxifen was developed in the UK in the 1960s and has helped to reduce breast cancer by 30 per cent, but the powerful drug has very unpleasant side-effects leading to more than half of the women prescribed with the drug to stop taking it before the five-years has elapsed.
However, in the U.S. a new gel treatment is being tested specifically designed to shrink tumours and if successful could radically change the future treatment of breast cancer.
Researcher Professor Seema Khan said of the U.S. testing:
“We think it may be a very good solution for women who are reluctant to take tamoxifen.
“Delivery through the skin means there will be very little drug circulating through the bloodstream and the body.”
The new treatment is called Afimoxifene and if it proves successful it could be available in the UK in three-to-four years time.
Unlike Tomoxifen which has to be taken orally and broken down by the liver before it can circulate around the body, Afimoxifene is applied to tumour over the skin where it is able to just seep into the affected cells.
“It is a way to minimise exposure to the rest of the body and concentrate the drug where it is needed, and encourage women to stay on the treatment for longer and help their chances of survival”, added Professor Khan.
The U.S. trial was followed a successful French study on 55 women who used an active ingredient of Tamoxifen on their skin that proved to be just as effective as tablet forms to slow down the growth of cancer tissue, and they had nine times less toxic medicine in their bloodstream.
Trials in the U.S. will use both tablet and gel forms of Tamoxifen treatment six weeks leading up to the patients cancer surgery and monitor just how much their tumours have shrunk in that time.
Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK said:
“It is not clear whether this gel can deliver the benefits of the drug with fewer side effect.
“We will have to wait and see what the trial results show.”
How to check your breasts:
Look at your breasts and feel them with any part of your hand or fingers.
Check the whole breast, up to your neck and into your armpits.
Get to know how your breasts usually look and feel.
This will allow you to notice any unusual changes and help you to feel more confident about going to your GP to get them checked.
Men also need to be breast aware.
Approximately 300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year.