Concentrations of tamoxifen and its major metabolites in hormone responsive and resistant breast tumours

Br J Cancer. 2000 May;82(10):1629-35. doi: 10.1054/bjoc.2000.1120.


Patients treated with tamoxifen (TAM) for primary breast cancer often manifest de novo or acquired resistance, possibly through changes in drug metabolism. Using solid-phase extraction methods and reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography separations, levels of TAM and metabolites 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4OH) and desmethyltamoxifen (DMT) have been measured in plasma and tumour tissue from breast cancer patients treated with TAM for at least 3 months. Patients were categorized into those with tumours responding to TAM and those showing de novo or acquired resistance. Levels of TAM, 4OH and DMT in both plasma and tissue samples were correlated with clinical response, length of treatment and patient weight. Interesting results included accumulation of 4OH in tumour tissues over time in all patients, with significance reached in the acquired resistance group. In addition, significantly lower levels of 4OH and DMT were found in plasma taken from responding patients after 3 months of treatment when compared to non-responding patients, and a small group of ER-poor patients showed significantly lower levels of all three species in plasma when compared to other patients. Whilst not explaining TAM resistance in all cases, these differences could account for the development of resistance to TAM treatment in certain subgroups of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / analysis*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / blood
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Chromatography / methods
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / blood
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / chemistry
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / drug therapy
  • Tamoxifen / analogs & derivatives
  • Tamoxifen / analysis*
  • Tamoxifen / blood
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Tamoxifen
  • 4-methyltamoxifen