Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

This Week in NEJM: Jun 23, 2011


In NEJM this week, researchers from the US, Europe, and Canada present findings from a study of exemestane for the prevention of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of 4,560 women with a median age of 62.5 years, 11 invasive breast cancers were detected in the group randomly assigned to take exemestane, compared to 32 cancers detected in the placebo group, at a median follow-up of 35 months. Adverse events occurred in 88 percent of the exemestane group and 85 percent of the placebo group, the authors write, and there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of skeletal fractures, cardiovascular events, or other cancers. "Exemestane significantly reduced invasive breast cancers in postmenopausal women who were at moderately increased risk for breast cancer," the researchers add.

Also in NEJM this week, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Nancy Davidson and Thomas Kensler map the course of chemoprevention in breast cancer since the introduction of tamoxifen. A 1992 NEJM editorial foreshadowed a role for tamoxifen in breast cancer chemoprevention, and nearly 20 years later, treatment of high-risk women with tamoxifen for five years can reduce the chance they will be diagnosed with breast cancer by about 50 percent, Davidson and Kensler write. Its sister drug, raloxifene, is almost as effective. During this time, researchers also discovered aromatase inhibitors, which reduced breast cancer recurrence even more than tamoxifen in clinical trials. Now, researchers are studying compounds like exemestane, Davidson and Kensler say, which can lead to a 65 percent reduction in the diagnosis of an invasive breast cancer. "Breast cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer and one of the most feared diagnoses for women in the United States. We have the knowledge and tools to reduce its incidence today," they add.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.