Tamoxifen as the first targeted long-term adjuvant therapy for breast cancer

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2014 May 6;21(3):R235-46. doi: 10.1530/ERC-14-0092. Print 2014 Jun.


Tamoxifen is an unlikely pioneering medicine in medical oncology. Nevertheless, the medicine has continued to surprise us, perform, and save lives for the past 40 years. Unlike any other medicine in oncology, it is used to treat all stages of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ, and male breast cancer and pioneered the use of chemoprevention by reducing the incidence of breast cancer in women at high risk and induces ovulation in subfertile women! The impact of tamoxifen is ubiquitous. However, the power to save lives from this unlikely success story came from the first laboratory studies which defined that 'longer was going to be better' when tamoxifen was being considered as an adjuvant therapy. This is that success story, with a focus on the interdependent components of: excellence in drug discovery, investment in self-selecting young investigators, a conversation with Nature, a conversation between the laboratory and the clinic, and the creation of the Oxford Overview Analysis. Each of these factors was essential to propel the progress of tamoxifen to evolve as an essential part of the fabric of society.

Keywords: breast; endocrine therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Tamoxifen