Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 398, Issue 4, pp 1791–1800 | Cite as

Development and validation of a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method for the simultaneous quantification of tamoxifen, anastrozole, and letrozole in human plasma and its application to a clinical study

  • Beate Beer
  • Birthe Schubert
  • Anne Oberguggenberger
  • Verena Meraner
  • Michael Hubalek
  • Herbert OberacherEmail author
Original Paper


There is substantial evidence that circulating estrogens promote the proliferation of breast cancer. Consequently, adjuvant hormonal treatment strategies targeting estrogen action have been established. Such hormonal therapies include selective estrogen receptor modulators, such as tamoxifen, which interfere at the estrogen receptors directly, or non-steroidal aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole and letrozole, which inhibit estrogen synthesis through blocking the aromatase, a key enzyme of estrogen production. Despite considerable therapeutic success, in several cases, the use of these drugs is limited by side effects that have been described to significantly impair the adherence of patients to endocrine treatment. However, objective data concerning patient adherence and its clinical relevance are limited. One promising approach to check patient-reported adherence is drug monitoring in human plasma. Therefore, a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method to determine the plasma concentrations of tamoxifen, anastrozole, and letrozole has been developed and fully validated according to guidelines for clinical and forensic toxicology. The validation criteria evaluated were selectivity, linearity, accuracy and precision, limit of quantification, recovery and matrix effects, sample stability, and carryover. The six-point calibration curves showed linearity over the range of concentrations from 25 to 500 ng/ml for tamoxifen, 5 to 200 ng/ml for anastrozole, and 10 to 300 ng/ml for letrozole. The intra- and inter-day precision and accuracies were always better than 15%. The validated procedure was successfully applied to a clinical study (Patient-Reported Outcomes in Breast Cancer Patients undergoing Endocrine Therapy, PRO-BETh). A major aim of PRO-BETh study is the comprehensive evaluation of adherence to treatment in pre- and post-menopausal women with breast cancer. Plasma samples of 310 breast cancer patients undergoing anti-estrogen therapy were analyzed. Eight samples did not contain a quantifiable amount of drug, strongly indicating non-adherence of the corresponding patients to adjuvant breast cancer treatment. Furthermore, plasma concentrations at the lower end of the observed plasma level distribution might represent a hint but not a confirmation for non-adherence in terms of non-daily and irregular intake of the prescribed drug.


LC/MS/MS Drug monitoring Adherence Tamoxifen Anastrozole Letrozole 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beate Beer
    • 1
  • Birthe Schubert
    • 1
  • Anne Oberguggenberger
    • 2
  • Verena Meraner
    • 2
  • Michael Hubalek
    • 3
  • Herbert Oberacher
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Legal MedicineInnsbruck Medical UniversityInnsbruckAustria
  2. 2.Department of General and Social PsychiatryInnsbruck Medical UniversityInnsbruckAustria
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyInnsbruck Medical UniversityInnsbruckAustria

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