Hot flashes are not predictive for serum concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites

BMC Cancer. 2013 Dec 28:13:612. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-13-612.


Background: Tamoxifen has dramatically reduced the recurrence and mortality rate of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. However, the efficacy of tamoxifen varies between individuals and 40% of patients will have a recurrence despite adjuvant tamoxifen treatment. Factors that predict tamoxifen efficacy would be helpful for optimizing treatment. Serum concentrations of the active metabolite, endoxifen, may be positively related to treatment outcome. In addition, hot flashes are suggested to be positively associated with tamoxifen treatment outcome.

Methods: We investigated in a series of 109 patients whether the frequency and severity of hot flashes were related to concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites. A serum sample of all patients was analyzed for the concentration of tamoxifen, N-desmethyltamoxifen, endoxifen and 4-hydroxytamoxifen, as well as for estradiol concentrations and several single nucleotide polymorphisms in CYP2D6. Additionally, these patients completed a questionnaire concerning biometric data and treatment side effects.

Results: We found no evidence supporting an association between concentrations of tamoxifen or metabolites and either the frequency or severity of hot flashes in the covariate unadjusted analyses. However, including interactions with menopausal status and pre-treatment hot flash (PTHF) history indicated that post-menopausal women with PTHF experienced an increasing frequency of hot flashes with increasing serum concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites. This finding was not altered when adjusting for potential confounding factors (duration of tamoxifen treatment, CYP2D6 phenotype, estradiol serum concentration, age and body mass index). In addition we observed a positive association between body mass index and both hot flash frequency (p = 0.04) and severity (p < 0.0001). We also observed that patients with lower estradiol levels reported more severe hot flashes (p = 0.02).

Conclusions: No univariate associations were observed between concentrations of active tamoxifen metabolites and either the frequency or severity of hot flashes during treatment. However, the frequency of hot flashes may be exacerbated by higher serum concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites in post-menopausal women with a history of hot flashes prior to tamoxifen treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 / genetics
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hot Flashes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tamoxifen / metabolism*
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Tamoxifen
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6
  • Receptor, ErbB-2