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Only 23 women saw their tumors grow 25 percent or more in the four months that surgery was delayed.
That risk is fairly small and compares to what studies testing chemotherapy before surgery have found, said Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast cancer specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston who heads the oncology society's expert panel on hormone treatments.
For most women, delaying surgery to try tumor-shrinking treatment is a reasonable option, he said.
"Hopefully we can build on this and identify women who don't need chemotherapy" and can have hormone-blockers instead, he said.
The side effects of hormone treatment are milder -- mostly hot flashes and joint pain, Olson said.
A National Cancer Institute grant paid for most of the study; Pfizer and Novartis contributed some support.
Although the differences in how well the three drugs performed were so small they could have occurred by chance alone, the larger study will test the two with the best results -- Femara and Arimidex, Olson said. It also will compare them to chemotherapy as a pre-surgery treatment.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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