Serum concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites increase with age during steady-state treatment

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Sep;141(2):243-8. doi: 10.1007/s10549-013-2677-9. Epub 2013 Sep 1.


It has been suggested that the concentrations of tamoxifen and its demethylated metabolites increase with age. We measured the serum concentrations of the active tamoxifen metabolites, 4OHtamoxifen (4OHtam), 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyltamoxifen (4OHNDtam, Endoxifen), tamoxifen and its demethylated metabolites. Their relations to age were examined. One hundred fifty-one estrogen receptor and/or progesterone receptor positive breast cancer patients were included. Their median (range) age was 57 (32-85) years. Due to the long half-life of tamoxifen, only patients treated with tamoxifen for at least 80 days were included in the study in order to insure that the patients had reached steady-state drug levels. Tamoxifen and its metabolites were measured by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Their serum concentrations were related to the age of the patients. To circumvent effects of cytochrome (CYP) 2D6 polymorphisms we also examined these correlations exclusively in homozygous extensive metabolizers. The concentrations of 4OHNDtam, tamoxifen, NDtam (N-desmethyltamoxifen), and NDDtam (N-desdimethyltamoxifen) were positively correlated to age (n = 151, p = 0.017, 0.045, 0.011, and 0.001 respectively). When exclusively studying the CYP2D6 homozygous extensive metabolizers (n = 86) the correlation between 4OHNDtam and age increased (p = 0.008). Up to tenfold inter-patient variation in the serum concentrations was observed. The median (inter-patient range) concentration of 4OHNDtam in the age groups 30-49, 50-69, and >69 years were 65 (24-89), 116 (25-141), and 159 (26-185) ng/ml, respectively. We conclude that the serum concentrations of 4OHNDtam (endoxifen), tamoxifen, and its demethylated metabolites increase with age during steady-state tamoxifen treatment. This may represent an additional explanation why studies on the effects of CYP2D6 polymorphisms on outcome in tamoxifen-treated breast cancer patients have been inconsistent. The observed high inter-patient range in serum concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites, especially in the highest age group, suggest that use of therapeutic monitoring of tamoxifen and its metabolites is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Tamoxifen / analogs & derivatives
  • Tamoxifen / blood
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacokinetics*
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Tamoxifen
  • 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyltamoxifen
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6
  • N-desmethyltamoxifen