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      The potency and clinical efficacy of aromatase inhibitors across the breast cancer continuum

      Annals of Oncology

      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          The strategy of using estrogen suppression to treat breast cancer led to the development of aromatase inhibitors, including the third-generation nonsteroidal compounds anastrozole and letrozole, and the steroidal compound exemestane. Aromatase inhibitors potently inhibit aromatase activity and also suppress estrogen levels in plasma and tissue. In clinical studies in postmenopausal women with breast cancer, third-generation aromatase inhibitors were shown superior to tamoxifen for the treatment of metastatic disease. Studies of adjuvant therapy with aromatase inhibitors include (i) head-to-head studies of 5 years of the aromatase inhibitor versus 5 years of tamoxifen monotherapy; (ii) sequential therapy of 2–3 years of tamoxifen followed by an aromatase inhibitor (or the opposite sequence) versus 5 years of tamoxifen monotherapy; (iii) extended therapy with an aromatase inhibitor after 5 years of tamoxifen; and (iv) sequential therapy with an aromatase inhibitor versus aromatase inhibitor monotherapy. Recent results from the Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination and Breast International Group 1–98 trials advocate using an aromatase inhibitor upfront. This article examines the clinical data with aromatase inhibitors, following a brief summary of their pharmacology.

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          Most cited references 151

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          Effects of conjugated equine estrogen in postmenopausal women with hysterectomy: the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial.

          Despite decades of use and considerable research, the role of estrogen alone in preventing chronic diseases in postmenopausal women remains uncertain. To assess the effects on major disease incidence rates of the most commonly used postmenopausal hormone therapy in the United States. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled disease prevention trial (the estrogen-alone component of the Women's Health Initiative [WHI]) conducted in 40 US clinical centers beginning in 1993. Enrolled were 10 739 postmenopausal women, aged 50-79 years, with prior hysterectomy, including 23% of minority race/ethnicity. Women were randomly assigned to receive either 0.625 mg/d of conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) or placebo. The primary outcome was coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence (nonfatal myocardial infarction or CHD death). Invasive breast cancer incidence was the primary safety outcome. A global index of risks and benefits, including these primary outcomes plus stroke, pulmonary embolism (PE), colorectal cancer, hip fracture, and deaths from other causes, was used for summarizing overall effects. In February 2004, after reviewing data through November 30, 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided to end the intervention phase of the trial early. Estimated hazard ratios (HRs) (95% confidence intervals [CIs]) for CEE vs placebo for the major clinical outcomes available through February 29, 2004 (average follow-up 6.8 years), were: CHD, 0.91 (0.75-1.12) with 376 cases; breast cancer, 0.77 (0.59-1.01) with 218 cases; stroke, 1.39 (1.10-1.77) with 276 cases; PE, 1.34 (0.87-2.06) with 85 cases; colorectal cancer, 1.08 (0.75-1.55) with 119 cases; and hip fracture, 0.61 (0.41-0.91) with 102 cases. Corresponding results for composite outcomes were: total cardiovascular disease, 1.12 (1.01-1.24); total cancer, 0.93 (0.81-1.07); total fractures, 0.70 (0.63-0.79); total mortality, 1.04 (0.88-1.22), and the global index, 1.01 (0.91-1.12). For the outcomes significantly affected by CEE, there was an absolute excess risk of 12 additional strokes per 10 000 person-years and an absolute risk reduction of 6 fewer hip fractures per 10 000 person-years. The estimated excess risk for all monitored events in the global index was a nonsignificant 2 events per 10 000 person-years. The use of CEE increases the risk of stroke, decreases the risk of hip fracture, and does not affect CHD incidence in postmenopausal women with prior hysterectomy over an average of 6.8 years. A possible reduction in breast cancer risk requires further investigation. The burden of incident disease events was equivalent in the CEE and placebo groups, indicating no overall benefit. Thus, CEE should not be recommended for chronic disease prevention in postmenopausal women.
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            Results of the ATAC (Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination) trial after completion of 5 years' adjuvant treatment for breast cancer.

            The standard adjuvant endocrine treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive localised breast cancer is 5 years of tamoxifen, but recurrences and side-effects restrict its usefulness. The aromatase inhibitor anastrozole was compared with tamoxifen for 5 years in 9366 postmenopausal women with localised breast cancer. After a median follow-up of 68 months, anastrozole significantly prolonged disease-free survival (575 events with anastrozole vs 651 with tamoxifen, hazard ratio 0.87, 95% CI 0.78-0.97, p=0.01) and time-to-recurrence (402 vs 498, 0.79, 0.70-0.90, p=0.0005), and significantly reduced distant metastases (324 vs 375, 0.86, 0.74-0.99, p=0.04) and contralateral breast cancers (35 vs 59, 42% reduction, 12-62, p=0.01). Almost all patients have completed their scheduled treatment, and fewer withdrawals occurred with anastrozole than with tamoxifen. Anastrozole was also associated with fewer side-effects than tamoxifen, especially gynaecological problems and vascular events, but arthralgia and fractures were increased. Anastrozole should be the preferred initial treatment for postmenopausal women with localised hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
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              A comparison of letrozole and tamoxifen in postmenopausal women with early breast cancer.

               John F Forbes,  Ian Smith,   (2005)
              The aromatase inhibitor letrozole is a more effective treatment for metastatic breast cancer and more effective in the neoadjuvant setting than tamoxifen. We compared letrozole with tamoxifen as adjuvant treatment for steroid-hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The Breast International Group (BIG) 1-98 study is a randomized, phase 3, double-blind trial that compared five years of treatment with various adjuvant endocrine therapy regimens in postmenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer: letrozole, letrozole followed by tamoxifen, tamoxifen, and tamoxifen followed by letrozole. This analysis compares the two groups assigned to receive letrozole initially with the two groups assigned to receive tamoxifen initially; events and follow-up in the sequential-treatment groups were included up to the time that treatments were switched. A total of 8010 women with data that could be assessed were enrolled, 4003 in the letrozole group and 4007 in the tamoxifen group. After a median follow-up of 25.8 months, 351 events had occurred in the letrozole group and 428 events in the tamoxifen group, with five-year disease-free survival estimates of 84.0 percent and 81.4 percent, respectively. As compared with tamoxifen, letrozole significantly reduced the risk of an event ending a period of disease-free survival (hazard ratio, 0.81; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.70 to 0.93; P=0.003), especially the risk of distant recurrence (hazard ratio, 0.73; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.60 to 0.88; P=0.001). Thromboembolism, endometrial cancer, and vaginal bleeding were more common in the tamoxifen group. Women given letrozole had a higher incidence of skeletal and cardiac events and of hypercholesterolemia. In postmenopausal women with endocrine-responsive breast cancer, adjuvant treatment with letrozole, as compared with tamoxifen, reduced the risk of recurrent disease, especially at distant sites. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00004205.) Copyright 2005 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annals of Oncology
                Annals of Oncology
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                09237534
                March 2011
                March 2011
                : 22
                : 3
                : 503-514
                Article
                10.1093/annonc/mdq337
                3042921
                20616198
                © 2011

                https://www.elsevier.com/tdm/userlicense/1.0/

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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