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, 17 (6 Suppl 9), 38-46

Overview of Hormonal Therapy in Advanced Breast Cancer

  • PMID: 2148026

Overview of Hormonal Therapy in Advanced Breast Cancer

L P Schacter et al. Semin Oncol.


Hormonal therapy of breast cancer is widely used and effective. Although never curative in advanced disease, significant palliation and durable remissions can be obtained with a wide variety of hormonal manipulations. Historically, surgical ablation was used to reduce endogenous hormone levels, but this invasive procedure has been largely supplanted by drugs that reduce hormone secretion or block steroid hormone activity. A number of such antagonists are available, with tamoxifen probably the most widely used. Response can also be achieved with hormone agonists. Estrogens and androgens or their congeners have about the same level of activity as surgical ablation or drug antagonists (20% to 30% overall response rate). The progestins, another class of agonists, are also effective in the palliation of advanced breast cancer. Megestrol acetate, in part because of its oral formulation, is probably the most commonly used progestational drug for the treatment of breast cancer. Reports of 16 trials involving 1,342 patients show a response rate of 26% in patients with advanced breast cancer treated with megestrol acetate. The drug has proved active in a small number of male patients and, in randomized trials, it has been shown to be comparable with tamoxifen in efficacy (30% response for megestrol acetate v 35% for tamoxifen). Studies are currently under way to evaluate the possibility that high doses of megestrol acetate may increase response rates, and to determine whether weight gain, a well-described effect of this drug, may prove beneficial in cancer treatment.

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