by Katrina Kahl
Minetta Liu, M.D., referred her patients to BCA’s aromatase inhibitor survey.
Minetta Liu, a medical oncologist at Georgetown University Medical Center, first learned about BCA’s Aromatase Inhibitors (AI) Side Effects Survey from BCA staff she met at the 2006 American Society for Clinical Oncology conference. Impressed by the online survey, she talked about it to all her patients on AIs. “Their faces lit up when I told them the survey existed,” she said. “Women with breast cancer want to contribute and help people understand.” The survey itself, she points out, “asks straightforward questions and covers pertinent issues.”
Dr. Liu directed her patients to the survey for two main reasons. The first is because it’s important for patients to be able to report what they experience while taking AIs. BCA’s AI survey gives women a forum for self-reporting their side effects from these drugs, providing a different perspective than they might get from a clinical trial or in an oncologist’s office. She noted that patients don’t always tell their oncologist everything they experience while taking a drug.
The side effects information presented in the published reports from the clinical trials of AIs, such as the Arimidex or Tamoxifen Alone or in Combination (ATAC) trial, are not necessarily reflective of the long-term side effects of these drugs. Additionally, the experiences of younger women with chemotherapy-induced menopause are different from those of older women, and this information may not be reflected in the reports from clinical trials.
The second reason Dr. Liu referred her patients to the survey is because of the need for oncologists to understand—from a patient’s perspective—what women are experiencing when taking AIs. If doctors are able to give better information to their patients, women with breast cancer can make more informed treatment choices. Dr. Liu says, “It may not be practice changing because the drugs are known to be effective,” but she notes the importance of oncologists being aware of patients’ experiences.
Additionally, Dr. Liu points out that some women don’t realize a drug’s impact on them until they stop taking it. If they don’t realize they are experiencing a side effect until after finishing their treatment, the side effect will not be revealed in the early analyses of a prospective clinical trial. Thus, side effect information should continue to be collected in the long term, even after a drug has been approved for sale.
Dr. Liu adds that the AI survey gives women living with breast cancer the opportunity to make a valuable contribution towards providing important information about treatment options.
Katrina Kahl is BCA’s communications associate.