Background: Oestrogens usually stimulate the progression of oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. Paradoxically, high-dose oestrogens suppress the growth of these tumours in certain circumstances.
Methods: We prospectively examined the efficacy and safety of ethinylestradiol treatment (3 mg per day oral) in postmenopausal patients with advanced or recurrent ER-positive breast cancer who had previously received endocrine therapies, especially those with resistance to aromatase inhibitors.
Results: Eighteen patients were enrolled with the median age of 63 years and the mean observation time of 9.2 months. Three cases withdrew within 1 week due to oestrogen flare reactions with nausea, fatigue and muscle-skeletal pain. The response rate was 50% (9 out of 18), and the clinical benefit rate was 56% (10 out of 18). The stable disease (<6 months) was 17% (3 out of 18) and another 2 cases were judged as progressive disease. Time-to-treatment failure including 2 on treatment was a median of 5.6 months (range 0.1 to 14.5(+)). Although vaginal bleeding or endometrial thickening was observed in patients receiving long-term treatment, there were no severe adverse events, such as deep venous thrombosis or other malignancies.
Conclusion: Although the mechanism of this treatment has not been fully understood, our data may contribute to change the common view of late-stage endocrine therapy.