Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) in the UK has announced that its blood test could benefit thousands of women eligible for preventative breast cancer drugs.

This highly sensitive hormone test can determine the effectiveness of anastrozole, a drug recommended for post-menopausal women at high risk of developing breast cancer.

According to research, published in the Lancet Oncology, up to 25% of these women may not benefit from taking the drug.

The study was led by MFT’s professors Gareth Evans, Anthony Howell, and Brian Keevil, alongside Queen Mary University of London’s professors Jack Cuzick and John Snow.

It showed routine hormone level testing could enable personalised treatment plans.

Anastrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, works by reducing oestrogen levels in post-menopausal women, which can otherwise promote breast cancer cell growth.

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Taken as a 1mg tablet daily for five years by women post-menopause, the aromatase inhibitor, (type of hormone therapy drug) is expected to reduce oestrogen in women with active ovaries.

MFT Medical Genetics and Cancer Epidemiology consultant D Gareth Evans said: “These results indicate the importance of incorporating serum oestrogen levels into risk models, so women can be reassured despite other risk factors if their levels are low, and likewise, higher levels may make more women eligible for anastrozole.”

Anastrozole’s preventative efficacy was highlighted in the IBIS-II prevention trial, which demonstrated a 49% reduction in breast cancer incidence among at-risk post-menopausal women.

MFT Medical Oncology emeritus consultant Anthony Howell said: “As a result of our previous research, anastrozole is now the drug of choice for preventing breast cancer in high-risk women after the menopause.

“Through this latest study, we aimed to better understand who did or did not benefit from the drug, to identify if this treatment could be targeted more effectively for patient benefit.

“Our results indicate that we need to routinely assess hormone levels before prescribing anastrozole to ensure women are receiving the most beneficial preventative medication to them.”