Prevention of Breast Cancer Using SERMs and Aromatase Inhibitors

Research paper by Kathrin Strasser-Weippl, Paul E. Goss

Indexed on: 01 Jan '03Published on: 01 Jan '03Published in: Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers of women in the Western world. Despite modest achievements in the treatment of this disease, there is a substantial unmet medical need to reduce the occurrence of new breast cancers. In several prospective, placebo-controlled trials, the antiestrogen tamoxifen has been shown to reduce the incidence of both invasive cancer and preinvasive breast lesions. Meanwhile, numerous other selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are being developed and trials comparing tamoxifen to these agents are ongoing. The goal of these studies is not only to show superior chemopreventive efficacy of the newer SERMs, but also an improved side-effect profile. The proof-of-principle demonstrated with tamoxifen suggests that strategies inhibiting estrogen are a logical way forward in breast cancer prevention. Aromatase inhibitors, which antagonize estrogen by blocking its synthesis from androgens, offer an alternative way of preventing the effects of estrogen and its metabolites on the breast. In this paper, the available data on SERMs including tamoxifen and raloxifene in breast cancer prevention and the data pointing to the efficacy of aromatase inhibitors in this setting are outlined.