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New breast cancer gel for treating tumours

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Summary of story from The Daily Mail, August 5, 2011

A new breast cancer gel engineered to shrink tumours is being tested in the US, in a move that could transform the treatment of the disease.

Many of the 48,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer annually in the UK are prescribed tamoxifen, a tablet  taken orally then broken down by the liver and dispersed throughout  the body before it reaches the breast tissue.

The gel – afimoxifene – is applied to the skin daily and has far fewer side-effects than tamoxifen. It contains the same active ingredient but concentrates treatment on to the breast, rather than circulating it throughout the body.

It is applied directly to the skin over the tumour, where it is absorbed into the affected cells.

Researcher Professor Seema Khan of Northwestern University, who is trialing the gel, said: ‘We think it may be a very good solution for women who are reluctant to take tamoxifen.

“Delivery through the skin means there will be very little drug circulating through the bloodstream and the body.

‘It is a way to minimise exposure to the rest of the body and concentrate the drug where it is needed.’

The current trial was established following a study in France on 55 women which suggested rubbing the active ingredient of tamoxifen on the skin was just as good as tablets at slowing cancerous  tissue growth as ingesting the pill.

UK cancer charities, however, have been cautious about endorsing the product at such an early stage in its development.

Dr Susie Jennings, of Breakthrough Breast  Cancer, said: ‘It’s exciting to see alternative methods of delivering treatment being explored.

‘But it will be some time before we know if it could be used safely and effectively.’

And Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK said ‘It’s not clear whether this gel can deliver the benefits of the drug with fewer side effects. We’ll have to wait and see what the trial results show’.

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