Raloxifene is used to treat brittle bone disease. But a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association shows it has another important health benefit. For women in the study, raloxifene reduced the risk of breast cancer by 76 percent. It may become an alternative to tamoxifen, which isn't suitable for all women.
Carmen Larrosa has battled breast cancer for three years. It's something she doesn't want her daughter to have to endure. But there's hope for women like Carmen's daughter. It started last year with tamoxifen long used by doctors to treat breast cancer. Scientists have learned the drug can prevent it.
Now there's raloxifene, sold under the brand name Evista. It's approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating osteoporosis, but doctors found it may do something else. "It's not a surprise that it reduces the risk of breast cancer, but the magnitude of this effect is really remarkable to me. 76 percent reductions are not something we find in medicine very often," says Dr. Steven Cummings of the University of California research team.
And unlike tamoxifen, which can cause blood clots and uterine cancer, the side effects of raloxifene appear to be minimal. Another major difference between the two therapies is that tamoxifen has been proven effective to prevent and treat breast cancer, raloxifene has not. "It's too early to say outside of the study that we're certain it has potential benefits in that way," says Roger Waltzman, Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The promise is there and this fall, doctors will get their answers when thousands of women will take part in a nation wide study. Tamoxifen and raloxifene will tested against each other and more importantly, against the disease.