A pilot study comparing the effect of flaxseed, aromatase inhibitor, and the combination on breast tumor biomarkers

Susan E. McCann*, Stephen B. Edge, David G. Hicks, Lilian U. Thompson, Carl D. Morrison, Gerald Fetterly, Christopher Andrews, Kim Clark, John Wilton, Swati Kulkarni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Use of complementary approaches is common among breast cancer survivors. Potential interactions between aromatase inhibitors (AI) and high phytoestrogen foods, such as flaxseed (FS), are not often described. We conducted a pilot 2 × 2 factorial, randomized intervention study between tumor biopsy and resection, in 24 postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, to assess the effects of FS and anastrozole, and possible interactions between them, on serum steroid hormone and tumor-related characteristics associated with long-term survival (Roswell Park Cancer Institute, 2007-2010). The effect of each treatment vs. placebo on outcomes was determined by linear regression adjusting for pretreatment measure, stage, and grade. Although not statistically significant, mean ERβ expression was approximately 40% lower from pre- to postintervention in the FS + AI group only. We observed a statistically significant negative association (β ± SE -0.3 ± 0.1; P = 0.03) for androstenedione in the FS + AI group vs. placebo and for DHEA with AI treatment (β ± SE -1.6 ± 0.6; P = 0.009). Enterolactone excretion was much lower in the FS + AI group compared to the FS group. Our results do not support strong effects of FS on AI activity for selected breast tumor characteristics or serum steroid hormone levels but suggest AI therapy might reduce the production of circulating mammalian lignans from FS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-575
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition and Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Oncology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cancer Research


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