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Cancer drug dose clue from cough syrup

19th November 2010

New research has suggested that giving breast cancer patients cough syrup might tell doctors how well they will respond to a vital drug.

Because women often respond differently to Tamoxifen – which has helped improve survival rates over the last two decades – it can mean they need a higher dose to get the same effect.

The UK charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer say that the research from a team at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam might help cut side effects for patients.

The Dutch scientists noticed the body deals with the active ingredient of cough syrup the same way, offering an easier way to make the calculation on dose.

Tamoxifen works by blocking the effects of the female sex hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate growth in some tumours but to work properly, the drug needs to be metabolised, and some women appear better able to do this than others.

Under the trial, breast cancer patients received a small dose of cough syrup before taking their Tamoxifen pills two hours later.

Blood samples were taken to see if the processing of the cough syrup drug matched that of the Tamoxifen and results showed that levels of the cough drug accurately predicted levels of the chemicals produced when tamoxifen is broken down.

Caitlin Palframan, from Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: "This kind of work could help us to improve a woman's chance of successful breast cancer treatment and spare her unnecessary side effects by giving her the right drugs at the right dose for her."

 

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