Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center


Study tests safe way to reduce hot flashes in breast cancer survivors

Not all clinical trials assess curative therapies. Many trials target pain and symptoms that can interfere with the quality of life and ability to heal, such as frequent and severe hot flashes in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors. Current therapies to relieve hot flashes are not an option for these women if they increase levels of estrogen, which may increase the risk of relapse. Breast cancer survivors need a non-estrogen alternative therapy. 

In 2009, researchers at Massey enrolled 26 subjects in a pilot study to evaluate the effectiveness of magnesium oxide in reducing both the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The results were so positive that Massey is now collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and the other members of the North Central Cancer Treatment Group to enroll participants in a larger, national trial. Massey’s Haeseong Park, M.D., M.P.H., is one of two national study chairs and Mary Helen Hackney, M.D., is leading the trial at Massey.

Enrollment is open and without cost. The randomized trial lasts nine weeks and participants are assigned to one of four groups. In the first week, survivors complete a questionnaire and document the baseline frequency and severity of their hot flashes before intervention. During weeks two through nine, two of the groups receive either a high or low dose of a placebo; the other groups receive either a high or low dose of magnesium oxide supplement. Everyone completes the questionnaire daily. At the end of nine weeks, the trial is “unblinded” and participants are told whether they received the therapy or the placebo. All participants then have the option of receiving magnesium oxide for an additional four weeks at no expense.To learn more about this trial, contact Gwen Parker, F.N.P., at 1-800-925-8821.