Endocrine therapy of advanced disease: analysis and implications of the existing data.
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Endocrine therapy remains an important approach to the treatment of metastatic breast cancer because of its effectiveness and excellent tolerability. In the last 10 years, a number of new endocrine therapies have been introduced. These include the luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists, which produce menopausal changes in premenopausal women; the aromatase inhibitors, which prevent production of estrogen in postmenopausal women; and the estrogen receptor down-regulator fulvestrant (Faslodex), which is effective in postmenopausal women whose tumors have progressed following response to other selective estrogen receptor modulators. The endocrine cascade for the treatment of premenopausal women with metastatic disease now involves the concurrent or sequential combination of a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogue and tamoxifen, whereas the cascade for the treatment of postmenopausal women can begin with tamoxifen followed by an aromatase inhibitor or with an aromatase inhibitor followed by tamoxifen. The optimal cascade following the use of an aromatase inhibitor and tamoxifen in postmenopausal women remains unclear, but fulvestrant and megestrol acetate or the use of an aromatase inactivator (exemestane) following an aromatase inhibitor are all available options with some activity. Over the next few years, clinical trials will clarify the optimal sequence of endocrine therapy for postmenopausal women. The use of estrogen and progesterone receptor status to select for endocrine therapy is undeniably crucial. HER2/neu overexpression may also predict response to endocrine therapy, but this remains controversial.
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