Pharmacogenomics of tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors


  • James N. Ingle MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
    • Division of Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905
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    • James N. Ingle serves as a consultant to Novartis.

  • Presented at Endocrine and Targeted Manipulation of Breast Cancer: Proceedings of the Sixth Cambridge Conference, April 30–May 1, 2007, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


In selection of therapy for women with breast cancer, the focus has been almost exclusively on the characteristics of the tumor, eg, estrogen receptor (ER) and HER-2. Until recently, essentially no attention has been paid to the host and her genetic makeup as it relates to the metabolism of different drugs. The first real clinical application of pharmacogenetics in breast cancer management relates to tamoxifen's biotransformation to active anticancer metabolites. New information has arisen on the metabolism of tamoxifen to the active metabolite, 4 hydroxy-N-desmethyl-tamoxifen (endoxifen). Endoxifen is a metabolite with antitumor activity and affinity for the ER that is similar to 4-hydroxy-tamoxifen, but 1 that is normally present in substantially higher concentrations. CYP2D6 plays a central role in the metabolism to endoxifen and 1 published study shows that genotypic differences in CYP2D6 and use of CYP2D6 inhibitors has an impact on outcomes of women treated with tamoxifen. The aromatase inhibitors represent a major class of drugs in the armamentarium against breast cancer. The aromatase gene has been resequenced and functional genomics have been performed on the identified nonsynonymous coding single nucleotide polymorphisms showing significant decreases in levels of activity. These findings are consistent with a hypothesis that genetic variation in the CYP19 gene might be important in the activity of aromatase inhibitors. Currently, the emphasis is on examining multiple genes (thus pharmacogenomics) in pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic pathways in women receiving aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer. Cancer 2008. © 2007 American Cancer Society.