Researchers in Birmingham are launching a major national clinical trial in women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer

The NEO-EXCEL trial hopes to recruit 1000 patients from across the country and is the largest breast cancer trial of its kind. The researchers will look at a new treatment for post-menopausal patients just diagnosed with breast cancer. The study is headed up by research teams from University Hospital Birmingham and the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham Institute for C

This new study will look at whether treating breast cancer with oestrogen lowering tablets can help to shrink the cancer to a smaller size and allow patients to undergo less major surgery. Currently patients diagnosed with breast cancer have an operation often followed by a combination of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone tablets.

The lead investigator on the trial Consultant Surgeon Adele Francis said: "The drugs being studied in this trial are two oestrogen lowering drugs called exemestane and letrozole. Both are known to be very good at cutting off the supply of hormones that feed oestrogen-sensitive cancers. This trial will allow us to assess, which of these drugs might be most effective in acting to shrink breast cancers before surgery."

The investigators will also examine the effect of giving patients oestrogen inhibitors in combination with celecoxib (a drug which is related to asprin).

Adele Francis continues: "There is already some evidence that giving celecoxib with oestrogen lowering drugs may shrink the cancer more than oestrogen lowering drugs alone and that is what we will investigate through this trial. The therapies we are investigating have the potential to radically improve the way in which patients with breast cancer are treated, both by potentially lessening the surgery involved and also by allowing treatment to be tailored to the individual."

For more information please contact: Ben Hill, Press Office, University of Birmingham Tel: 0121 414 5134, 07789 921 163


The NEO-EXCEL trial is a prospective Phase III, multicentre, bifactorial (four-arm), randomised clinical trial, with both open label and placebo-controlled comparisons. Double-blind, placebo-controlled for assessment of the role of the COX 2 inhibitor, celecoxib, and open-label for the comparison of the aromatase inhibitors, exemestane and letrozole. Post-operative treatment will depend on operative pathology and be determined by local protocol but will require a minimum of one annual visit for 5 years.