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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

WIPH research leads to approval of Anastrozole for breast cancer prevention

Based on research led by Jack Cuzick, John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at the Wolfson Institute of Population Health, Anastrozole has been authorised for preventive use in post-menopausal women at high risk of breast cancer.


The new approval means that around 289,000 women in England who are at moderate or high risk of breast cancer, due either to genetic reasons or because of a significant family history of the disease, could be eligible for the drug. If 25% of these women choose to take Anastrozole, around 2000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented in England, saving the NHS around £15 million in treatment costs.

The IBIS-II international randomised double blind placebo controlled trial recruited over 3800 postmenopausal women at increased risk of developing breast cancer, and showed that women in the Anastrozole treated group were almost 50% less likely to be diagnosed with the disease than those in the placebo arm.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended Anastrozole as a preventive option in 2017, but as the treatment was unlicensed for this use, uptake remained low. The new indication for preventive use of Anastrozole was authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) through a pioneering Medicines Repurposing Programme led by NHS England. Anastrozole is the first drug to be repurposed through the new programme.

Professor Cuzick said: ‘Anastrozole is a very effective, safe and generally well-tolerated drug. It been shown to prevent about half the breast cancers in high risk postmenopausal women after an 11 year median follow up in the large international IBIS-II trial. The opportunity to offer it to high risk postmenopausal women more routinely will have a major effect on reducing the number of breast cancer cases.’



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