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CNN LIVE TODAY

'Daily Dose'

Aired October 9, 2003 - 11:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: There is big news today about a drug that made a dramatic difference in the fight against breast cancer. Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, joining us from New York with details in our "Daily Dose."
Elizabeth, great news during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is great news, and this study was so important. This drug, Femara, turned out to work so well, that the researchers did something very unusual. They actually stopped the study early because they said it's working so well, we want to tell women about it, and they'll continue the study later, but they wanted to let people know how the drug worked.

Let's take a look at the numbers. What the researchers did, is they took 5,187 post-menopausal women, and them watched them for 2 1/2 years. In that time period, 207 of these women got new or recurring cancer, 75 of those women were on Femara, and 132 were on placebo. So you can see, looking at that 75 and 132 set of number, that that's a big difference. In other words, many more women got a new breast cancer when they were on placebo. Fewer women got a new breast cancer when you were on Femara.

let's put these results in a different way. If you take 100 patients who had breast cancer and you followed them for four years, Femara prevents six of those women from getting new or recurring cancers over the course of four years, and I should add these were women that are surgery first and then were treated with Tamoxifen, another drug for five years, and that's all you can take Tamoxifen for, is five years, and then after that, then they went on this drug called Femara. They think Femara works by reducing the amount of estrogen in the woman's body, and that's good for breast cancer, but we have to add, that's bad for some other things.

Women taking drugs like Femara have a higher chance of having osteoporosis, a higher chance of having fractures, a higher chance of having sexual dysfunction, and that's why the conclusion of this study is that women need to talk to their doctor, because it's not all 100 percent completely good news -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, but as we find out with any of these drugs and any of these treatments, there are tradeoffs, and you have to make the choices about what's No. 1 on your list.

So you are talking about women who are post-menopausal, but what about younger women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer going on this drug? COHEN: The Femara and other drugs in this class are not used on women who are pre-menopausal. It's only used for older women, who are post-menopausal, and the reason is, as we talked about, is that it effects estrogen. Now if a younger woman has had her ovaries removed, then she can be a candidate, but right now, this drug is mainly used on post-menopausal women.

KAGAN: Right, still very important news. And as we mentioned, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I'm sure you'll be with us throughout the month, giving us a lot of stories about the topic.

Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

KAGAN: Appreciate it.

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