Tamoxifen

Wikopedia definition:

Tamoxifen is an antagonist of the estrogen receptor in breast tissue via its active metabolite, hydroxytamoxifen. In other tissues such as the endometrium, it behaves as an agonist, hence tamoxifen may be characterized as a mixed agonist/antagonist. Tamoxifen is the usual endocrine (anti-estrogen) therapy for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, and is also a standard in post-menopausal women although aromatase inhibitors are also frequently used in that setting.

Some breast cancer cells require estrogen to grow. Estrogen binds to and activates the estrogen receptor in these cells. Tamoxifen is metabolized into compounds that also bind to the estrogen receptor but do not activate it. Because of this competitive antagonism, tamoxifen acts like a key broken off in the lock that prevents any other key from being inserted, preventing estrogen from binding to its receptor. Hence breast cancer cell growth is blocked.

Tamoxifen is currently used for the treatment of both early and advanced ER+ (estrogen receptor positive) breast cancer in pre- and post-menopausal women.Additionally, it is the most common hormone treatment for male breast cancer. It is also approved by the FDA for the prevention of breast cancer in women at high risk of developing the disease.It has been further approved for the reduction of contralateral (in the opposite breast) cancer.

Side effects

A report in September 2009 from Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests that tamoxifen, raloxifene, and tibolone used to treat breast cancer significantly reduce invasive breast cancer in midlife and older women, but also increase the risk of adverse side effects.

 Bone

A beneficial side effect of tamoxifen is that it prevents bone loss by acting as an estrogen receptor agonist (i.e., mimicking the effects of estrogen) in this cell type. Therefore, by inhibiting osteoclasts, it prevents osteoporosis.When tamoxifen was launched as a drug, it was thought that tamoxifen would act as an estrogen receptor antagonist in all tissue, including bone, and therefore it was feared that it would contribute to osteoporosis. It was therefore very surprising that the opposite effect was observed clinically. Hence tamoxifen’s tissue selective action directly led to the formulation of the concept of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). In contrast tamoxifen appears to be associated with bone loss in premenopausal women who continue to menstruate after adjuvant chemotherapy.

 Endometrial cancer

Tamoxifen is a selective estrogen receptor modulator.Even though it is an antagonist in breast tissue it acts as partial agonist on the endometrium and has been linked to endometrial cancer in some women. Therefore endometrial changes, including cancer, are among tamoxifen’s side effects. With time, risk of endometrial cancer may be doubled to quadrupled, which is a reason tamoxifen is typically only used for 5 years.

The American Cancer Society lists tamoxifen as a known carcinogen, stating that it increases the risk of some types of uterine cancer while lowering the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The ACS states that its use should not be avoided in cases where the risk of breast cancer recurrence without the drug is higher than the risk of developing uterine cancer with the drug.

 Cardiovascular and metabolic

Tamoxifen treatment of postmenopausal women is associated with beneficial effects on serum lipid profiles. However, long-term data from clinical trials have failed to demonstrate a cardioprotective effect.For some women, tamoxifen can cause a rapid increase in triglyceride concentration in the blood In addition there is an increased risk of thromboembolism especially during and immediately after major surgery or periods of immobility. Tamoxifen is also a cause of fatty liver, otherwise known as steatorrhoeic hepatosis or steatosis hepatis.

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