Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Keep taking the tablets...

Three and a half days of presentations about breast cancer with hundreds of posters to look at is pretty intense: as a non-scientist I am always interested in ideas which float above the scientific analysis – my scientific colleagues can deal with the clever stuff. (Read the press releases which we issued about some of the presentations).

I also look for links to research that Breast Cancer Campaign is supporting and there are a number which shows that our research is indeed cutting edge.

One presentation which caught my attention was from British Columbia in Canada and relates to the title of this blog. It is counter-intuitive that patients should stop taking medication which is life-saving, but they do. The background is that guidelines for the care of patients with early breast cancer suggest patients should be offered additional treatments after surgery to increase their chances of survival. The principal treatment for women with oestrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer over the last three decades has been tamoxifen and more recently, the aromatase inhibitors.

This Canadian study looked at tamoxifen and why it is of interest to us in the UK is that it was publicly funded (as with the NHS); easily available, even to patients in rural areas, and they could track prescriptions. Despite this, they found that 40 per cent of patients took their medicine for less than 80 per cent of the days or even stopped altogether. This has cropped up in several other studies as well.

This particularly caught my attention as we started to fund a two-year project in Dundee earlier this year which will be looking at exactly this problem but expanding it to include aromatase inhibitors. They will identify which of the patients did not take their treatment as prescribed and study what effect this has had on their breast cancer returning and survival.

Identifying the barriers that prevent patients from completing their treatment courses will allow researchers to develop interventions to persuade patients at the beginning of treatment to continue to take their medication as prescribed to ensure maximum benefit is gained. Breast Cancer Campaign is committed to funding research that will lead to improvements in patient survival. We have every confidence that this project will provide essential information to help us to ensure survival rates keep improving and be able to share that information with colleagues around the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment