The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 21, 2003 - 5A
Drugs reduce risk of breast
cancer in midst of side effects
Members of the Outloud Chorus perform on the Diag as part of the Transgender Day of Remembrance last night. A
candlelight ceremony followed the performance.
Event highlights remembrance
of transgender victims of violence
By Cianna Freeman
and Siabhon Sturdivant
The murders of 38 transgender
women were honored at last night's fifth
annual Transgender Day of Remem-
Participants began on the Diag with a
musical selection from the Outloud
Chorus and was followed by the lighting
of candles to honor the deceased vic-
tims. The group then marched with their
candles across the Diag and down State
Street toward the Michigan Union.
"This year is the second time we've
had this event and we hope that by hav-
ing it on the University's campus, that
we bring more awareness to the cause,"
said Kelly Garret, assistant director of
the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Continued from Page IA
"One concern we had is how a poten-
tial strike could affect December gradu-
ates," said GEG member Chris De Fay.
Currently, the University health care
system pays more than 90 percent of all
faculty and staff premiums, but if the
Board of Regents approves the recom-
mendations put forth by the Committee
on Health In'surance Premium Design,
the University would pay an average of
85 percent of premiums beginning in
"As it stands right now, single grad
Transgender Affairs at the University.
The group commemorated transgen-
der victims by reading the names and
biographies of those who were mur-
dered in the last year.
Two of the recent victims were from
southeastern Michigan. Twenty-one-
year-old Tamara Michaels was murdered
in Highland Park. The body of Nikki
Nicholas, a 19-year-old transgender
woman, was found in Green Oak Town-
ship, just north of Ann Arbor.
The evening concluded with an open
forum that gave attendees the opportuni-
ty to share their experiences and reac-
tions to the violence against
transgenders. "I am here on behalf of
my transgender friends, and I am an ally
for people that were too scared to come
to this event tonight," said Ann Arbor
resident Lindsey Larkin. "I also came to
students and those with dependants pay
no premium," Dobbie said. "Under the
proposed plan, people would pay
through cost sharing."
He added singles would pay $12 a
month while those with dependants
would pay $23.
While realizing the current health
care crisis, GSIs are angered because, as
they claim, the University's actions are
in breach of the contract GEO signed in
May 2002. Moreover, GSIs cite that the
increased premi'ums would lead to a
$120,000 saving for the University,
which is a small fraction of the over $22
million the University earned from the
health care system last year.
learn and educate myself on these mat-,
ters. I may be able to better communi-
cate these issues with people that aren't,
part of the gay community."
Since 1999, this memorial has taken
place every year in more than 90 loca-
tions in eight countries. "Five years ago,
Gwen Smith started a website that kept
track of all the (transgender) women thatI
had been murdered in different cities,
both in the United States and abroad,"1
Presently, the University is working
with the Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and ,
Bisexual taskforce - a part of the
Office of LGBT Affairs - that deals
with making the University a safer place
for the people of these communities. 7
The event was sponsored by the Ann 1
Arbor-based Transgender Advocacy
According to the GSIs, the recom-
mended premium increases provide for
a short-term solution to the health care
crisis rather than combating rising health
care costs. "The biggest argument is
essentially the University saying health
care costs are spiraling out of control,"
DeFay said. "We have a contract and the
University is not honoring it. The Uni-
versity is doing something illegal."
"That's the most important issue -
the University is breaking the law," he
The union filed a formal grievance
with the University and in regard to any
legal action, Dobbie said, "We've been
in that process."
Studies at 'U' and St.
effectiveness in current
By Jameel Naqvi
An ongoing study raises the
exciting possibility that doctors will
be able to reduce the risk of breast
cancer without contributing to other
Tests in the U.S. and Canada are
assessing the effectiveness of the
drugs Tamoxifen and Raloxifene in
preventing breast cancer. The Uni-
versity's Comprehensive Cancer
Center and St. Joseph Mercy Hospi-
tal in Ann Arbor are both partici-
pants in the study.
A 1998 trial showed Tamoxifen,
which has been on the market for
more than 20 years, reduced the
incidence of breast cancer by 50
percent over a placebo. But the drug
also increases the risk of blood
clots and endometrial, or uterine,
cancer, said Sofia Merajver, the
center's principal investigator on the
"There is some early evidence
that Raloxifene is less apt to cause
uterine cancer than Tamoxifen,"
said Virginia LeClaire, a nursing
practitioner at the center.
Raloxifene has not been approved
to treat breast cancer. It is now used
to treat osteoporosis in post-
menopausal women, as it has not
yet been determined whether the
drug is safe among younger women,
Because of this, only post-
menopausal women are subjects in
the recent study of Tamoxifen and
Both drugs bind to estrogen
receptors to prevent the hormone
from spurring the growth of cancer-
ous cells, but there are subtle differ-
ences between them, Merajver said.
The results of the STAR trial
could lead to a role reversal or even
cause one of the drugs to fall out of
"Both of these drug companies
are taking a gamble" by participat-
ing in the study, said LeClaire.
Despite the high stakes involved,
the trial is insulated from drug com-
pany influence, Merajver said.
Though the study is funded by the
two drug makers along with the
National Cancer Institute, the funds
are administered by a third party,
The cancer institute also funded a
study, released last month, which
found the drug Letrozole improved
upon the disease-free survival rate
of breast cancer patients by 6 per-
cent compared with a placebo.
"(Cancer) relapse is a death sen-
tence," St. Joseph Mercy oncologist
Elaine Chottiner said.
"If you convert six out of 100
women from untreatable to treat-
able, then multiply that by the thou-
sands of women diagnosed with
"Letrozole increases the risk of
osteoporosis," she said. "(The
study) cannot gauge the long-term
effect on bone density."
She added that the time frame
may have been too short because
breast cancer is undetectable in its
"You're caught between a moral
obligation to inform patients of the
results of the study and a research
obligation to gather more data,"
"One wonders what role drug
companies have in (the choice to
end the study early)," she added.
Novartis, maker of Letrozole,
"There was a feeling of comfort in
knowing that you might be taking
something to stop the breast cancer from
- Karen Ridley
Professor, School of Dentistry
breast cancer each year, that's sig-
The significant survival advan-
tage conferred by Letrozole led
researchers to halt the study early
and give the women in the control
group the option of taking Letro-
zole free of charge of for the next
One of these women was Den-
tistry School Prof. Karen Ridley.
"There was a feeling of comfort
in knowing that you might be taking
something to stop the breast cancer
from coming back," Ridley said.
Ridley received the placebo for
three years and has been taking
Letrozone for the past week.
She was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 1994, for which she
underwent chemotherapy and mas-
tectomies in both breasts. She also
was treated with Tamoxifen, which
in addition to its preventative role is
used to stop the recurrence of breast
The study was administered
locally at St. Joseph Mercy, where
17 women volunteered to be test
subjects. Though the drug shows
promise in treating early stage
breast cancer, Chottiner expressed
concerns about Letrozole and the
stands to make a fortune from the
study, she said.
One requirement was that the
women in the study must have had
five years of Tamoxifen treatment.
Tamoxifen is not prescribed to
patients for more than five years
because cancer cells have the ability
to adapt and become less responsive
to the drug.
Letrozole, which is already used
to treat advanced breast cancer in
postmenopausal women, may take
the place of Tamoxifen in prevent-
ing recurrence of the disease after
those five years are up.
But Letrozole is expensive, at
$180 to $200 each month. Patients
can obtain the generic version of
Tamoxifen for about $30 per month,
"There will be women who don't
get the drug because it is too expen-
sive," Chottiner said.
"Women without prescription
coverage may have trouble afford-
ing the drug."
No data has yet been released for
the STAR trial, which will not end
for more than a year, but in a small-
er study Raloxifene reduced the
incidence of breast cancer by 50