Drug Safety

, Volume 24, Issue 14, pp 1039–1053

Comparative Tolerability of First-Generation Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators in Breast Cancer Treatment and Prevention

Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/00002018-200124140-00003

Cite this article as:
Curtis, M.G. Drug-Safety (2001) 24: 1039. doi:10.2165/00002018-200124140-00003


In general, the selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) currently indicated for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer, i.e. tamoxifen and toremifene, are fairly well tolerated. However, tamoxifen has been shown to induce hepatocellular carcinomas in rats, but not in humans, and can increase the risk of endometrial cancer in humans by two to three times. Other potentially serious adverse effects which have been associated with tamoxifen and toremifene therapy include vasomotor symptoms, an increased risk of venous thromboembolic events, and an increased incidence of cataracts and ocular toxicity, fatty liver, and nonmalignant hepatic and uterine changes. In addition, long term tamoxifen use almost always results in resistance to the drug and, indeed, has actually been shown to promote tumour proliferation in human breast cancer cells. Both tamoxifen and toremifene display drug interactions with a variety of drug classes.

The adverse events associated with these compounds have raised significant concerns regarding their widespread use for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. In addition, because of the weakness and scarcity of the data on toremifene, any conclusions about its tolerability remain tentative until outcomes of ongoing clinical trials in the adjuvant setting are known. A third SERM, raloxifene, is the focus of several large randomised trials examining its efficacy in the prevention of breast cancer. At present, each potential adverse event needs to be weighed against potential benefits in the decision to undergo SERM treatment. An array of therapies is currently available for patients with breast cancer and women at increased risk of disease; the risk-to-benefit ratio for each agent should be carefully examined in determining the most advantageous regimen.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics/GynecologyUniversity of Texas at HoustonHoustonUSA