Young women diagnosed with breast cancer often have to delay pregnancy for years while taking hormone-blocking drugs. It turns out that you can discontinue these medications for two years in order to get pregnant without having to.
“This is really good news for young women, their doctors, and their families,” said Dr. Anne Partridge of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who led the study.
The results were discussed Thursday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Breast cancer is more common in older women and, for unknown reasons, is increasingly being diagnosed at childbearing age.
For patients whose cancer is driven by hormones, treatment requires surgery. They then take monthly injections of either hormone-blocking drugs that cause birth defects or newer drugs called aromatase inhibitors for 5 to 10 years to close the ovaries.
Partridge estimates that 6,000 U.S. women try to conceive each year but have to postpone it because they are on hormone-blocking drugs.
“They don’t want to hear about breast cancer again, but they also don’t want to put their lives on hold,” she said.
This study followed 516 women who underwent surgery for early-stage cancer. All were then on hormone-blocking drugs for at least 18 months. Women stopped hormone-blocking drugs for up to 2 years for pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. They then resumed cancer treatment.
After 3 years, cancer recurred in approximately 9%. This is similar to rates seen in a similar set of women who continued hormone deprivation therapy in another study. Nine people have died, “below the expected rate for this population,” Partridge said.
In this study, over 300 babies were born to women. Among them was Amy Bianchi’s son, Brayden, who is now 4 years old.
“He’s perfect in every way,” said Bianchi. “I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I couldn’t imagine my family without him.”
Bianchi felt a lump when her first child, Mia, was 18 months old, and it turned out to be breast cancer. Her doctor didn’t recommend another pregnancy, but she found out about her study and enrolled.
“Had I listened to the first few doctors and oncologists I spoke to, I would have lost all hope,” said Bianchi, 42, of Niskayuna, New York. I assumed. ”
She was able to breastfeed her son for six months before resuming hormone deprivation therapy, which she plans to continue through 2026.
Researchers will follow Bianchi and other study participants and report on their long-term safety.
“Will 10 years make a difference?” asked Dr. Hope Lugo of the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. “At this point, this is incredibly promising data. It should give practitioners and patients confidence,” he said, discussing how cancer treatment can benefit while having a family.