Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 27, Issue 1–2, pp 27–40 | Cite as

Drug resistance to tamoxifen during breast cancer therapy

  • Douglas M. Wolf
  • V. Craig Jordan
William L. McGuire Memorial Symposium


Breast cancer is the most common malignancy occurring in Western women, and is one of the leading causes of cancer mortality. The nonsteroidal antiestrogen tamoxifen has been shown to be an effective treatment for pre and postmenopausal women with all stages of the disease. Tamoxifen provides effective palliation when used to treat patients with advanced disease, and adjuvant tamoxifen therapy produces significant increases in both disease-free and overall survival (Early Breast Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group. Lancet 339:1-15, 71-85, 1992). Data from the laboratory have shown that the primary action of tamoxifen is tumoristatic rather than tumoricidal, and long-term therapy is therefore recommended. Unfortunately, many patients experience disease progression while taking tamoxifen. Some tamoxifen resistant tumors may remain sensitive to alternative endocrine therapies, while others may become refractory to any hormonal manipulation. Many models have been developedin vitro andin vivo to study the progression of breast cancer growth from tamoxifen sensitive to tamoxifen resistant. We and others have used long-term estrogen deprivation and long-term tamoxifen exposure to develop cell lines and tumors capable of growth in the presence of clinically relevant tamoxifen concentrations. Recently our laboratory has also shown that mutations in the estrogen receptor can cause an antiestrogen-occupied receptor to behave as though it were occupied by an estrogen. Breast cancer is a highly heterogeneous disease and it is likely that the mechanisms which cause tamoxifen resistant growth are equally heterogeneous. Several of the models from our laboratory and others which may contribute to an understanding of this complex phenomenon are discussed here.

Key words

antiestrogens breast cancer tamoxifen drug resistance 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas M. Wolf
    • 1
  • V. Craig Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human OncologyUniversity of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer CenterMadisonUSA

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