Tamoxifen - What next?

William J. Gradishar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Most patients with advanced breast cancer (ABC) ultimately die due to disease progression. Consequently, treatments for ABC are predominantly palliative in nature and, therefore, the tolerability profile of a given treatment is particularly relevant in these patients. While cytotoxic chemotherapy and endocrine therapy exhibit efficacy in hormone-sensitive, advanced disease, it is endocrine therapy that combines efficacy with minimal acute toxicity. Tamoxifen has been the chosen endocrine therapy. for postmenopausal, hormone-sensitive, ABC for over 20 years. More recently, new endocrine agents with different mechanisms of action from tamoxifen have been introduced. Evidence indicates that the aromatase inhibitors anastrozole (Arimidex®; AstraZeneca; Wilmington, DE), letrozole (Femara®; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.; East Hanover, NJ) and exemestane (Aromasin®; Pharmacia Corp.; Peapack, NJ) offer superior efficacy and tolerability to tamoxifen in the first-line treatment of postmenopausal, hormone-sensitive ABC. Similarly, after tamoxifen failure, fulvestrant (Faslodex®; AstraZeneca), a new estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist that downregulates the ER, is at least as effective as anastrozole, is well tolerated, and is not cross-resistant with tamoxifen. Unlike tamoxifen, fulvestrant has no known agonist effects. The sequential use of such agents may prolong the time during which endocrine therapies can be used, thereby avoiding the more acute toxicities associated with cytotoxic chemotherapy. Indeed, a series of studies has shown that this sequential use is a relevant, active, and well-tolerated option. Establishing the comparative efficacies and optimal sequences that incorporate the newer endocrine agents will be central in determining the future role of hormonal therapy in ABC; the results of this work will determine the relative place of tamoxifen in what is a rapidly changing therapeutic environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-384
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Advanced breast cancer
  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Fulvestrant
  • Sequencing
  • Tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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