Adding to the list of life-threatening conditions caused by hormone therapy (HT) is more research proving that estrogen can promote ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer affects one in 48 women. It is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, as it offers no symptoms and cannot be found by scans or blood tests until it is in an advanced stage. In fact, in 80% of cases the disease has usually spread and requires advanced surgery and chemotherapy. While HT artificially boosts estrogen in menopausal women, a new study suggests that anti-estrogen drugs – the opposite of HT – can prolong life in some ovarian cancer sufferers. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have found that a new drug, Letrozole, can block the growth of estrogen-sensitive ovarian cancer.
Menopausal women who have undiagnosed ovarian cancer and are using HT could be promoting the disease. Three major studies have highlighted increased risks, including a report in The Lancet in May from the British Million Women Study. This revealed that HT has resulted in 1,300 additional ovarian cancers and 1,000 additional deaths from the malignancy. The Endinbergh research, published in Clinical Cancer Research, raises the possibility that Letrozole might one day be used for ovarian cancer treatment the way Herceptin is for certain breast cancer.
Antiestrogen drugs have been used for 20 years in the treatment of breast cancer. But, John Smyth, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Edinburgh, and his colleague Simon Langdon, senior lecturer in cancer research, have evidence that such therapy works for some ovarian cancers as well. Professor Smyth says that estrogen can act as a growth promoter of some ovarian cancers; therefore, HT should only be used to treat severe menopausal symptoms and then only for less than five years. Nevertheless, his research suggests that, in those women with estrogen-sensitive tumors, one quarter of the women showed no tumor growth after six months of anti-estrogen therapy, and 33% showed a positive response that delayed the use of chemotherapy. This is good news for those with estrogen-sensitive ovarian cancer, but also further proof that HT can promote hormone-sensitive cancers in some women. Indeed, we have learned, and written of, the proven promoter effect HT has on hormone-dependent breast cancers.
Earlier this year, I wrote of a Prempro case in Philadelphia. That trial ended in late January with a $1.5 million compensatory damage verdict for the plaintiffs, a husband and wife who are natives of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The trial was split into compensatory and punitive damage phases. But, the trial judge, who died in April, disagreed with the jury’s conclusion that punitive damages were warranted in the case. The judge then sealed the jury’s punitive damages award. The judge held that that award can be unsealed if an appellate court reversed on the punitive damages issue which has been appealed. A new judge is now overseeing post-trial litigation in the case.
Earlier this year, I also wrote of a $3 million verdict in another Philadelphia Prempro case. The trial judge in this year’s second hormone therapy case has granted a defense motion to set aside that verdict. The jury in the Nelson case returned a unanimous verdict in February in favor of Jennie and Lawrence Nelson of Dayton, Ohio, awarding Mrs. Nelson $2.4 million, with the remaining $600,000 going to her husband. According to lawyers involved in the case, the judge decided, after the plaintiffs had rested their case, that the jurors wouldn’t be permitted to consider punitive damages. Now the original verdict for compensatory damages has been reversed and the Plaintiffs plan to appeal.
Our Mass Torts HT team continues to prepare for an HT breast cancer trial scheduled for November, 2007 in Minnesota. Ted Meadows, Russ Abney and Melissa Prickett are the primary lawyers handling the HT cases for our firm and will try that case, along with lawyers from the firms of Pearson, Randall & Schumacher, P.A., located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Littlepage Booth in Houston, Texas. Our Mass Torts lawyers are also in the process of preparing other HT cases for trial.
Sources: Times Online, The Legal Intelligencer
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