Breast Cancer: 1. Hormonal Interventions: A New Era Begins
Pp. 120-129 (10)
Pierre R. Band
In the 1950s and 1960s, the treatment of metastatic breast cancer in women
consisted of hormonal ablative or additive procedures. However, no tests were available to
predict patients’ response; as a result, about 60% to 70% of the women who underwent
these endocrine procedures failed to respond. The discovery of the estrogen receptor
enabled clinicians to select those women with breast cancer most likely to respond to
hormonal procedures. Response to endocrine therapy occurred in about 60% of women
with estrogen receptor rich tumors, as opposed to 8% in women with estrogen receptor
poor tumors. Of added importance, assay of the estrogen receptor in the primary breast
tumor was found to be predictive of response to endocrine therapy in women who
subsequently developed disease recurrence. Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogenic compound
synthesized in Great Britain, inhibits the binding of estrogen to the estrogen receptor.
Tamoxifen underwent extensive fundamental and clinical investigations and became the
standard form of endocrine therapy for breast cancer for over a quarter of a century.
Breast cancer, endocrine therapy, estrogen receptors, tamoxifen.
Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1Y6, Canada.