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Breast cancer resistance to tamoxifen cause discovered

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers have made an important discovery about why some women become resistant to breast cancer treatment with the hormone tamoxifen. The finding, published by University of Manchester, UK researchers October 31, 2012,

The hormone works by blocking estrogen receptors that fuel breast cancer. Now scientists have identified a marker that can help tell clinicians which women will respond to the tamoxifen treatment.

The finding is important because it can help physicians decide on the best treatment plan for women diagnosed with cancer the breast, which will in turn improve survival rates.

Study lead Professor Göran Landberg said in a press release, "Tamoxifen has been shown to be highly effective in some breast cancer patients when used alongside traditional cancer therapies but, in a third of cases, the result has not been what we would hope.

If we can predict which patients will respond to tamoxifen, and those who won't, then this is clearly advantageous as it means the correct treatment is provided instantly which will improve disease outcomes."

Tamoxifen, though very effective at preventing a recurrence of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, can lead to early menopause.

The drug can also be difficult to tolerate for women from side effects of low libido, vaginal dryness, mood swings, hot flashes and nausea.

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The drug also carries are risk for developing uterine cancer and blood clots. The benefits of taking to Tamoxifen outweigh the risks.

Study co-author Dr Susann Busch said in a media release: “We analysed tissue samples from 564 women with invasive breast cancer, some of whom were given tamoxifen and some who weren’t; this allowed us to make a comparison between treatment responses.

The research is bound women who had low levels of a protein known as pERK did not respond to Tamoxifen.

“Testing patients for the pERK flag could help doctors determine whether tamoxifen is an appropriate treatment for their patient or whether alternative therapies should be explored, so saving time and money.”

Understanding who will respond to the therapy can also save women unnecessary side effects of breast cancer drugs that aren’t going to work.

The finding is published in the journal PLoS One.

The researchers hope to find more flags that promote growth of breast cancer tumors. The new study identifies why some women become resistant to breast cancer treatment with tamoxifen that fails in approximately 1/3 of women given the hormone treatment.

The University of Manchester
October 31, 2012

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