Breast Cancer Study Aims for Greater Minority Participation

03/27/00    Portland, Ore.

True Effectiveness of Prevention Drugs at Stake

The largest breast cancer prevention trial in history is underway, but the results might not apply to everyone if women of color do not participate.

The Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene, or STAR, is recruiting 22,000 post-menopausal women across the country at high risk for breast cancer. Participants in the study will receive either the drug tamoxifen, which has been shown to cut breast cancer incidence in half, or raloxifene, an osteoporosis drug that has also been seen to prevent breast cancer. The goal of STAR is to determine which drug works best with the fewest side effects.

But, unless representatives of all population groups take part, it will be unknown if the drugs work effectively for all women. "It is extremely important that the scientific information we gather is generalizable to the entire population," said Worta McCaskill-Stevens, M.D., STAR program director for the National Cancer Institute, a sponsor of the study.

Access to health care, diet and other cultural differences could be factors that affect the incidence of breast cancer among women in certain ethnic groups. "One of our goals is to educate communities about breast cancer in general," said McCaskill-Stevens. "A prevention trial like this provides a woman with some indication of her risk of having the disease, and the greater the diversity of participants, the more we'll learn about who is at risk."

Locally, Oregon Health Sciences University is recruiting patients for the study. "The great thing about STAR is that we're not simply trying to find out what works to treat people with cancer, but what works effectively to actually prevent breast cancer," said David Henner, M.D., OHSU oncologist and director of the hormonal reproductive cancers program at the Oregon Cancer Center.

To be eligible for STAR, a woman must: be age 35 or older; be post-menopausal; and be at high risk for breast cancer.


Women interested in participating in STAR, or who want to take a risk assessment exam to learn if they are at increased risk for breast cancer, should call (503) 494-6524. Spanish-language interpreters are available.