Will we ever be able to ‘pop a pill’ to stop cancer developing? In our latest expert interview, we talked with Professor Jack Cuzick about the concept of preventive therapy for cancer, and in particular, his work on breast cancer prevention.
Cancer Research UK: When did the idea of preventive therapy for cancer really start to gain ground?
Jack Cuzick: The first major observation that really gave impetus to this idea was the fact that when we were looking at the use of tamoxifen to treat breast cancer, the trials showed a benefit of reducing recurrences of current breast cancers but – very excitingly – also showed that new cancers in the opposite breast (‘contralateral’ breast cancers) were also being reduced substantially.
Breast cancer is kind of unusual in the sense that you have a second breast in which you can learn about drugs that you use for treatment to tell you something about prevention.
That work occurred in the early 1980s. In 1986 we put together a prevention statement about the real need to run clinical trials of tamoxifen as a drug for the prevention of breast cancer in women at higher than average risk of disease.