Progesterone antagonists and progesterone receptor modulators in the treatment of breast cancer

Steroids. Oct-Nov 2000;65(10-11):825-30. doi: 10.1016/s0039-128x(00)00195-1.


Progesterone antagonists (PAs) (antiprogestins) or progesterone receptor modulators (PRMs) form an interesting category of new hormonal agents in the treatment of breast cancer. In vitro, antiproliferative effects of different PAs are mainly observed in estrogen-stimulated growth of PR-positive tumor cell lines. Both progestin agonist/antagonist actions on mammary tumor cells are dependent on the type of cell line, culture medium and concentrations of the PAs used, and type of biologic response measured. In various experimental animal tumor models, different PAs showed a greater antitumor activity than tamoxifen or high-dose progestins. Most interestingly, combination treatment of different PAs (mifepristone, ORG 31710, onapristone) or PRMs with different antiestrogens (tamoxifen, droloxifen, ICI 164384) or with an aromatase inhibitor (atemestane) showed greater antitumor efficacy than treatment with each single type of drug alone. These additive antiproliferative effects were demonstrated in various experimental in vitro and in vivo models. In some studies, these effects were accompanied by additive effects on several cell biologic parameters. In pretreated postmenopausal patients with metastatic breast cancer, objective responses have been observed in 10-12%, and stable disease in 42-46% of the patients; in previously untreated patients objective response rates of 11 and 56% have been reported. The clinical development of onapristone was stopped because of liver toxicity. At the present time, apart from development of new pure potent PAs, clinical investigation of combined therapy of PAs with antiestrogens are urgently needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Hormone Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Progesterone / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Progesterone / agonists
  • Receptors, Progesterone / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism*
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Progesterone