Potential role of UGT pharmacogenetics in cancer treatment and prevention: focus on tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors

Drug Metab Rev. 2010 Feb;42(1):182-94. doi: 10.3109/03602530903208652.


Tamoxifen (TAM) is a selective estrogen-receptor modulator that is widely used in the prevention and treatment of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer. Its use has significantly contributed to a decline in breast cancer mortality, since breast cancer patients treated with TAM for 5 years exhibit a 30-50% reduction in both the rate of disease recurrence after 10 years of patient follow-up and in the occurrence of contralateral breast cancer. However, in patients treated with TAM, there is substantial interindividual variability in the development of resistance to TAM therapy and in the incidence of TAM-induced adverse events, including deep-vein thrombosis, hot flashes, and the development of endometrial cancer. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) have emerged as a viable alternative to TAM, working by inhibiting aromatase activity and blocking estrone/estrodiol biosynthesis in postmenopausal women. The current third-generation AIs, anastrozole, exemestane, and letrozole, were used initially for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, demonstrating similar or greater benefit but less toxicity, compared with TAM, and are now being employed as adjuvant treatment for early breast cancer in postmenopausal women. This article will focus on the UDP-glucuronosyltransferases, a family of metabolizing enzymes that play an important role in the deactivation and clearance of TAM, anastrazole, and exemestane, and how interindividual differences in these enzymes may play a role in patient response to these agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anastrozole
  • Androstadienes / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Letrozole
  • Nitriles / therapeutic use
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*
  • Triazoles / therapeutic use


  • Androstadienes
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Nitriles
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Triazoles
  • Tamoxifen
  • Anastrozole
  • Letrozole
  • exemestane