Effects of tibolone on climacteric symptoms and quality of life in breast cancer patients--data from LIBERATE trial

Maturitas. 2011 Dec;70(4):365-72. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.09.003. Epub 2011 Oct 26.


Background: Climacteric symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness are very common in breast cancer patients, resulting either from age or adjuvant therapy. Tibolone, a synthetic steroid, is effective in reducing these symptoms in healthy post-menopausal women, but this has never been studied in a large breast cancer population.

Objectives: The primary objective of LIBERATE trial was to study safety of tibolone 2.5mg daily versus placebo as primary, in symptomatic breast cancer survivors. The aim of this present paper was to report effects of tibolone on climacteric symptoms, vaginal dryness and health-related quality of life in the study population. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, n. NCT00408863.

Methods: The trial was conducted between June 2002 and July 2007. Concerning quality of life variables, a daily Diary Cards during the first three months and the Climacteric Symptoms Form and at each visit were used to register frequency and intensity of hot flushes. Mean vaginal dryness scores were calculated on the basis of individual ratings at baseline and at week 104. A subset of patients assessed their quality of life filling in the Women's Health Questionnaire (WHQ).

Results: Of the 3148 women recruited, 3133 received trial medication (1575 in the tibolone group and 1558 in the placebo group). The median duration of treatment was 2.75 years. In total 3098 women (1556 on tibolone, 1542 on placebo) were included in the intention-to-treat (ITT) population for efficacy analysis. Data on vaginal dryness are available for 2144 patients and 883 women (438 on tibolone, 445 on placebo) answered to WHQ. The mean change in number of hot flushes per day was 2.74 (43.1%) in the tibolone group and -1.77 (-27.5%) in the placebo group (p<0.0001) at week 12 and -4.62 (-65.6%) on tibolone as compared to -3.73 (-52.5%) on placebo (p<0.0001) at week 104. For the composite score the mean changes at week 12 were -0.19 (-10.6%) and -0.14 (-7.7%), respectively (p=0.0006). Vaginal dryness score improved at week 104 in the tibolone group as compared to placebo (-0.46 versus -0.29, respectively; p<0.0001). Across the assessments up to two years with WHQ, tibolone was more effective than placebo in improving sexual health, sleep quality and mood domains. Women using tamoxifen showed less improvement in climacteric symptoms with tibolone, than women only receiving tibolone without any adjuvant therapy.

Conclusion: The results of the LIBERATE trial show that tibolone is effective in symptomatic breast cancer patients and improves their quality of life. However, this finding should be judged within the context of the main outcome of the trial, showing that tibolone increases the risk of recurrence. The use of tibolone in women with breast cancer will remain contraindicated and any off-label use incurs a now proven risk.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / administration & dosage
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Atrophic Vaginitis / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Climacteric / drug effects
  • Contraindications
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hot Flashes / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Norpregnenes / pharmacology
  • Norpregnenes / therapeutic use*
  • Postmenopause / physiology
  • Postmenopause / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tamoxifen / administration & dosage


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Norpregnenes
  • Tamoxifen
  • tibolone

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00408863