High-dose tamoxifen and sulindac as first-line treatment for desmoid tumors

Cancer. 2004 Feb 1;100(3):612-20. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11937.


Background: Desmoid tumors are mesenchymal nonmetastasizing neoplasms. Although rare in the general population, they are a common extracolonic manifestation of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Because of high tumor recurrence rates, surgery has been less than satisfactory in the treatment of desmoid tumors. In the current study, high doses of tamoxifen in combination with sulindac were used to treat severe desmoid tumors to avoid surgery.

Methods: Since 1992, 25 patients at Heinrich Heine University (Dusseldorf, Germany) were treated with a combination of tamoxifen and sulindac. In the current study, 17 patients with FAP-associated and 8 patients with sporadic desmoid tumors received 120 mg of tamoxifen and 300 mg of sulindac daily. Every 6 months, the protracted course of desmoid growth was measured by computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging scans. Tumor responses were characterized as progressive disease, stable disease (SD), partial regression (PR), and complete regression (CR).

Results: Of the group of patients who received tamoxifen and sulindac as a primary treatment, all three patients with sporadic desmoid tumors demonstrated cessation of growth, and 10 of the 13 patients with FAP-associated tumors achieved either a PR or CR. In the sporadic desmoid tumor group, eight of nine patients developed tumor recurrences after undergoing surgery at other institutions. Of these, two patients had SD and two patients had a PR to CR.

Conclusions: The patients with desmoid tumors who were managed conservatively with high-dose tamoxifen and sulindac had the best outcome. Desmoid tumor recurrence after surgery was high and in the FAP-associated tumor group, therapy with tamoxifen and sulindac was found to be less successful. Based on this experience, the authors recommended high-dose tamoxifen and sulindac as the primary treatment for patients with FAP-associated desmoid tumors. However, to our knowledge, the best approach after surgical intervention for patients with sporadic desmoid tumors remains to be determined.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Abdominal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Abdominal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Fibromatosis, Abdominal / drug therapy*
  • Fibromatosis, Abdominal / mortality
  • Fibromatosis, Abdominal / pathology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sulindac / administration & dosage*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tamoxifen / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Tamoxifen
  • Sulindac