Endocrine/Hormonal/Aromatase Therapies

Combination Endocrine Therapy in the Management of Breast Cancer

Laura Boehnke Michaud, Kellie L. Jones, Aman U. Buzdar

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence: Aman U. Buzdar, M.D., Department of Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Box 56, Houston, Texas 77030, USA. Telephone: 713-792-2817; Fax: 713-794-4385; e-mail: abuzdar@mdanderson.org

Combination endocrine therapy has long been sought after as a means to better treat breast cancer. Agents that suppress estrogen production are given with agents that suppress estrogenic activity at the cellular level. Historically, these combinations have resulted in initial improvements in response rates, but relapse-free and overall survival were not significantly improved.

Also, the increased toxicity seen with these regimens was limiting. New endocrine therapies with more potent activity and less toxicity have led to a resurgence of this idea in the management of breast cancer. Complete estrogen blockade has been compared with single-agent treatments in many different settings.

The endocrine effects of this type of therapy are intriguing, but apparently do not readily predict a clinical advantage. The combination of an aromatase inhibitor and an antiestrogen, despite pharmacokinetic interactions, may prove to be beneficial.

Results from ongoing trials are eagerly awaited to further address this question in postmenopausal breast cancer patients. For premenopausal breast cancer patients the options are more complex. Clinical outcomes with leutinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists plus aromatase inhibitors are limited to very small phase II studies and are not clearly superior to single-agent therapy.

Clinical data in the metastatic setting with premenopausal patients favor the use of an LHRH agonist with tamoxifen over the use of an LHRH agonist alone. However, a similar comparison with tamoxifen alone is lacking with only one trial including this as a treatment arm.

Adjuvant therapy with this combined endocrine approach (LHRH agonist plus antiestrogen) has been more extensively studied, but lacks crucial comparisons necessary for making complex treatment decisions.

Hopefully, through investigative diligence and ingenuity this issue can be adequately understood. However, many exciting new agents are on the horizon that offer hope to further advance the progress made to date although further confounding the questions already answered.

The Oncologist, Vol. 6, No. 6, 538-546, December 2001 2001 AlphaMed Press

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