SOURCE: Novartis Oncology

August 29, 2006 08:00 ET

Tennis Mom Betty Agassi Shares Her Battle With Breast Cancer and Champions Disease Awareness at the US Open

EAST HANOVER, NJ -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 29, 2006 --


--  Betty Agassi encourages women with breast cancer to be champions for
    their own health
    
--  The high incidence of breast cancer recurrence remains an ongoing
    concern for women with breast cancer
    
--  Novartis Oncology and Betty Agassi team up to motivate women to remain
    vigilant about their health and stay informed about how they can help
    reduce their risk of breast cancer recurrence
    

Betty Agassi, mother of world tennis champion Andre Agassi, today will be launching a global initiative at the US Open to educate women battling breast cancer about ways that will help them minimize the risk of their cancer coming back.

This education initiative, which is sponsored by Novartis Oncology, focuses on the need for women with breast cancer to pay continued attention to their health and conduct ongoing communication with their doctors. Mrs. Agassi and Novartis Oncology in collaboration with the United States Tennis Association are launching this education initiative from the US Open to encourage international awareness of this issue.

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, and it was a shock," said Mrs. Agassi. "The thought of it returning is frightening; yet, I know the risk is real. However, with the help and support of my family, I am here today to encourage women with breast cancer to stay on top of their own health. It is so important for women to understand that the battle with breast cancer does not stop after initial treatment."

Regardless of all the diagnostic and treatment advances that have been made, breast cancer still is a fearsome opponent. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.(1) Medical experts attribute the decline in breast cancer deaths to earlier detection and innovative medicines, yet the disease is still a leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide.(2) Tumors can often be removed, but can grow back, invade surrounding tissues and organs, and travel to other parts of the body.

Through the education initiative, Mrs. Agassi is encouraging women with breast cancer to embrace knowledge and communication as two of the most powerful tools to use in reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Ribbon of Pink

During this year's US Open, the USTA has dedicated today, August 29, as "Ribbon of Pink" Day to spotlight breast cancer awareness and the need for ongoing vigilance against the risk of recurrence. Attendees are invited to visit the Ribbon of Pink booth for more information on how to help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

In addition, Mrs. Agassi is directing women to www.RibbonofPink.com, an Internet site that provides information on how women can stay informed about progress in breast cancer treatment and tips for healthy living to help protect themselves after surgery.

"Researching and developing treatments for breast cancer has been a focus for Novartis for more than 30 years," said Diane Young, M.D., vice president, global head, Clinical Development, Novartis Oncology. "Making sure women are as knowledgeable as they can be about advances in diagnosis and treatment is our goal in supporting this campaign. Together with Betty Agassi, we have a truly winning team to encourage all breast cancer patients to continue to follow up on their treatment with their doctors."

About Breast Cancer Recurrence

While advances in breast cancer treatment have increased the likelihood of survival, many breast cancer patients still may experience a recurrence of their disease. Options exist to reduce recurrence, but communication between patients and health care professionals about treatment choices is crucial. Approximately one-third of women with estrogen receptor-positive early breast cancer experience a recurrence, and over half of those recurrences occur more than five years after surgery. Through at least 12 years of follow-up, the risk of breast cancer recurrence remains appreciable; even some patients who are considered low risk have some risk of the cancer coming back. Studies show that more than half of all breast cancer recurrences and two-thirds of all breast cancer deaths occur after completion of five years of standard tamoxifen therapy.

About Treatment Advances

Innovative medications, such as aromatase inhibitors, exist to help reduce recurrence, but communication between patients and health care professionals about ongoing treatment is critical. The goal of an aromatase inhibitor is to deprive cancer cells of estrogen, thus helping to slow or even halt the growth of the tumor. Leading professional organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend aromatase inhibitors as part of optimal adjuvant treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer.

About Novartis

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation researches, develops, manufactures and markets leading innovative prescription drugs used to treat a number of diseases and conditions, including central nervous system disorders, organ transplantation, cardiovascular diseases, dermatological diseases, respiratory disorders, cancer and arthritis. The company's mission is to improve people's lives by pioneering novel healthcare solutions.

Located in East Hanover, New Jersey, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is an affiliate of Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) -- a world leader in pharmaceuticals and consumer health. In 2005, the Group's businesses achieved sales of USD 32.2 billion and pro forma net income of USD 6.1 billion. The Group invested approximately USD 4.8 billion in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 97,000 people and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For further information please consult www.novartis.com.

(1) http://www.imaginis.com/breasthealth/statistics.asp

(2) http://uuhsc.utah.edu/healthinfo/adult/breast/stats.htm