Author(s): McDaniel RE, Maximov PY, Jordan VC
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Abstract The treatment and prevention of solid tumors have proved to be a major challenge for medical science. The paradigms for success in the treatment of childhood leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, Burkett's lymphoma, and testicular carcinoma with cytotoxic chemotherapy did not translate to success in solid tumors--the majority of cancers that kill. In contrast, significant success has accrued for patients with breast cancer with antihormone treatments (tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors) that are proved to enhance survivorship, and remarkably, there are now two approved prevention strategies using either tamoxifen or raloxifene. This was considered impossible 40 years ago. We describe the major clinical advances with nonsteroidal antiestrogens that evolved into selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) which successfully exploited the ER target selectively inside a woman's body. The standard paradigm that estrogen stimulates breast cancer growth has been successfully exploited for over 4 decades with therapeutic strategies that block (tamoxifen, raloxifene) or reduce (aromatase inhibitors) circulating estrogens in patients to stop breast tumor growth. But this did not explain why high-dose estrogen treatment that was the standard of care to treat postmenopausal breast cancer for 3 decades before tamoxifen caused tumor regression. This paradox was resolved with the discovery that breast cancer resistance to long-term estrogen deprivation causes tumor regression with physiologic estrogen through apoptosis. The new biology of estrogen action has been utilized to explain the findings in the Women's Health Initiative that conjugated equine estrogen alone given to postmenopausal women, average age 68, will produce a reduction of breast cancer incidence and mortality compared to no treatment. Estrogen is killing nascent breast cancer cells in the ducts of healthy postmenopausal women. The modulation of the ER using multifunctional medicines called SERMs has provided not only significant improvements in women's health and survivorship not anticipated 40 years ago but also has been the catalyst to enhance our knowledge of estrogen's apoptotic action that can be further exploited in the future. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Vitam Horm
and referenced in Journal of Applied Pharmacy