A repurposed drug that can prevent breast cancer has been approved in England. The drug will be offered to women at an increased cancer risk, with hopes to prevent around 2,000 cases in England. NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said:
It’s fantastic that this vital risk-reducing option could now help thousands of women and their families avoid the distress of a breast cancer diagnosis.”
Around 289,000 women at moderate or high risk of breast cancer will be offered the preventative drug. In England, 47,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Many of these are those at high risk, with a family history of the cancer. Experts hope that this greater access to the repurposed drug will enable more women to take “risk-reducing steps”. Preventing cases also means millions of pounds could be saved for the NHS in treatment costs. Health Minister Will Quince said, “Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, so I’m delighted that another effective drug to help to prevent this cruel disease has now been approved”.
The drug Anastrozole was originally used as a treatment of breast cancer. However, in 2017 it was suggested by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) that the drug could also prevent the cancer significantly in post-menopausal women. The repurposing of Anastrozole was licensed by Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and is the first drug to be repurposed in this way. Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said that “this paves the way for improving access to risk-reducing drugs.”
The drug works by cutting down the amount of the hormone oestrogen that a patient’s body makes. The treatment will be taken as a 1mg tablet, once a day for 5 years. While there are some potential side effects, including hot flushes, skin rash, nausea, headaches, and depression, it's predicted cases could be cut by by 49% over 11 years. Morgan noted how important this drug will be to women at high risk of breast cancer. She said:
this is a major step forward that will enable more eligible women with a significant family history of breast cancer, to reduce their chance of developing the disease.”