• The endocrine prevention of breast cancer.

      Howell, Anthony; CRUK Department of Medical Oncology, Christie Hospital, Manchester M20 4BX, UK. anthony.howell@christie.nhs.uk (2008-08)
      Breast cancer incidence is increasing in all parts of the world. Although in Western countries death rates are declining, there is a need to make attempts to prevent the disease in order to reduce the trauma of diagnosis and treatment. Endocrine approaches to breast cancer prevention have been the most successful approach to cancer prevention to date. Studies with tamoxifen were initiated when it was noted that, during adjuvant treatment after surgery to prevent relapse, the incidence of new contralateral cancers was reduced by half. Four trials of >or=5 years of tamoxifen compared with placebo in women at increased risk of breast cancer were initiated in the 1980s and showed a similar reduction in breast cancer, but only in oestrogen-receptor-positive disease. Recent follow-up indicated that there is a carry-over effect of tamoxifen after the completion of treatment at 5 years so that the preventive effect at 10 years is significantly great than at 5. The selective oestrogen receptor modulator (SERM) raloxifene has also been assessed as a preventive agent in two major international randomized trials compared with placebo and shows a protective effect similar to that of tamoxifen. An American study subsequently compared tamoxifen and raloxifene in a trial of nearly 20,000 women at increased risk (the STAR trial) and demonstrated that the two agents were equally effective but that the toxicity of raloxifene was less. Adjuvant trials comparing tamoxifen and the modern potent aromatase inhibitors (anastrozole, letrozole and exemestane) indicate that they are superior to tamoxifen and reduce contralateral breast cancer by approximately 70%. This observation has led to the initiation of two trials in postmenopausal women comparing anastrozole (the IBISII trial) or exemestane (the MAP-3 trial) with placebo. Currently it is recommended that tamoxifen is used to prevent breast cancer in premenopausal women and raloxifene for postmenopausal women (it is not effective in the premenopausal group),and we await the results of the aromatase inhibitor trials.
    • The origin of estrogen receptor alpha-positive and alpha-negative breast cancer.

      Clarke, Robert B; Sims, Andrew H; Howell, Anthony; Breast Biology Group, Division of Cancer Studies, University of Manchester Christie Hospital (NHS) Trust, Manchester, UK. (2008)
    • Overcoming endocrine resistance in breast cancer: are signal transduction inhibitors the answer?

      Bedard, Philippe L; Freedman, Orit C; Howell, Anthony; Clemons, Mark; Division of Medical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada. (2008-04)
      Endocrine therapy is probably the most important systemic therapy for hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Hormonal manipulation was the first targeted treatment employed in breast cancer therapy even before the role of the estrogen (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) had been elucidated. Unfortunately, a substantial proportion of patients, despite being ER and/or PR positive, are either primarily resistant to hormone therapies or will develop hormone resistance during the course of their disease. Signaling through complex growth factor receptor pathways, which activate the ER are emerging as important causes of endocrine resistance. Targeted therapies, such as signal transduction inhibitors (STIs), are being explored as agents to be able to potentially overcome this crosstalk and thus, resistance to hormone treatment. This article reviews the biology of the ER, the proposed mechanisms of endocrine resistance, and ongoing clinical trials with STIs in combination with hormonal manipulation as a means to overcome endocrine resistance.