A drug based on a derivative of vitamin A may help to prevent high-risk young women from developing breast cancer, doctors said last week at the Second European Breast Cancer Conference. Their research showed that the vitamin A derivative, called fenretinide, prevented a second tumor developing in young women with early breast cancer.
Researchers tested the compound on nearly 3,000 women with early breast cancer. Half were given fenretinide after surgery for five years and the other half received no further treatment. Eight years after the initial treatment, the researchers discovered only 27 of the younger women who had taken the compound developed a second cancer in the healthy breast and 58 in the same breast, compared to 42 and 87 in the untreated group.
But when the scientists checked the results of women who were past menopause, the opposite occurred. Women who had not taken the derivative had fewer secondary cancers than those who did. Two other studies are already in progress. One study is testing
the compound combined with a low dose of the anti-cancer drug tamoxifen and the other is studying the effects of fenretinide plus hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in older women.
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