"We're starting to understand the molecular and genetic basis of tumors, which is helping us develop better ways to treat the disease and even prevent it in high-risk women," says Leslie Ford, M.D., associate director for clinical research in the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Prevention. These advances have made a significant impact: Death rates from breast cancer have declined steadily since 1990. When diagnosed and treated early, more than 90 percent of women with breast cancer now survive at least five years.
Doctors all over the country are conducting many types of clinical trials, studying new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer. Some are also studying therapies that may improve the quality of life for women during or after cancer treatment.
Clinical trials are designed to answer important questions and to find out whether new approaches are safe and effective. Women who join clinical trials may be among the first to benefit if a new approach is effective. If you are interested in being part of a clinical trial, talk with your doctor. Trials are available for all stages of breast cancer.
Research on prevention
Scientists are currently testing several different drugs that lower hormone levels or prevent a hormone's effect on breast cells. In one large study, the drug tamoxifen reduced the number of new cases of breast cancer among women who were at an increased risk of the disease. Initial results of STAR (Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene), one of the largest breast cancer prevention studies ever, found that the drug raloxifene is as effective as tamoxifen.