New treatment could stop hot flushes in women with breast cancer. Picture iStock
New treatment could stop hot flushes in women with breast cancer. Picture iStock

Hot-flush drug offers hope to cancer survivors

SEVERE hot flushes that cost cancer survivors sleep and can lead some to stop their treatment could be tackled by a new drug to go on trial around Australia.

Patients who have been treated for breast cancer or prostate cancer can suffer night sweats and severe hot flushes from their medication.

But the biomedical company behind the new drug trial, QUE Oncology, said its products have the potential to expand into related conditions, such as hot flushes associated with menopause, and hot flushes experienced by men undergoing prostate cancer treatment.

Around 18,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer and many are routinely prescribed drugs such as Tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors to block estrogen, a hormone known to stimulate the growth of breast cancer.

However, three in four women using the treatments suffer hot flushes and night sweats, with some facing more than 20 events in one day.

The episodes can be embarrassing and cause women to lose vital sleep and are far more severe than symptoms during menopause.

QUE Oncology will begin trials of a new drug it hopes will combat the episodes in 130 women in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide over the next 8 months.

 

Around 18,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer and many are routinely prescribed drugs such as Tamoxifen.
Around 18,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer and many are routinely prescribed drugs such as Tamoxifen.

 

An earlier safety trial in 60 women found 85 per cent of women undergoing oestrogen reduction treatment for cancer showed a reduction in both the frequency and severity of their hot flushes.

The chemical called Q122 was originally developed as an anti-cancer agent but it didn't work.

However, some women on the cancer trials reported their hot flushes went away while they were using Q122 and it was decided to trial it for this purpose says endocrinologist Professor Susan Davis, President of the International Menopause Society and Chair of Women's Health at Monash University, who will head the trials.

"Many people don't understand the full impact of hot flushes and night sweats," Professor Davis said.

"They feel like a combustion engine, women are waking up repeatedly at night, feeling like they've never had any sleep and that is never-ending for these women.

"When they go to exercise they are dripping with sweat then shivering with cold."

 

Treatment would be a win for breast cancer survivors. Picture iStock
Treatment would be a win for breast cancer survivors. Picture iStock

 

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2015, Melbourne radiologist Geraldine Kinsela was put on an aromatase inhibitor and later on Tamoxifen to prevent the cancer returning.

The 59-year-old has already been through menopause and said the hot flushes she experienced while on the medication were far more severe.

"It wasn't the same at all," she said.

"At night there was this feeling of not being able to control your body temperature, it would creep up your back, over your head, it was overwhelming heat and sometimes I'd be sweating.

"I'd wake up and have to throw the bedclothes off and then I'd be really cold afterwards."

The flushes disrupted her sleep and she says she "never felt like my batteries were fully recharged".

A treatment to control the flushes is very important because women want a better quality of life.

"People do stop taking Tamoxifen if the side effects are too great but for me it's my life vest, it stops the cancer coming back," she said.

Women wanting to express interest in participating in the clinical trial, can visit www.queoncology.com