Novel routes for administering chemoprevention: local transdermal therapy to the breasts

Semin Oncol. 2016 Feb;43(1):107-115. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2015.09.003. Epub 2015 Oct 8.


Breast cancer prevention with pharmacologic agents requires that the breast be exposed to an effective drug; systemic exposure is unnecessary, and its harms lead many eligible women to decline preventive therapy. Local transdermal therapy (LTT) to the breast involves the application of active drugs to the breast skin, resulting in high concentrations in the breast but low systemic exposure. It is non-invasive, self-delivered, and not dependent on hepatic metabolism. Existing data on LTT include investigations demonstrating relief of mastalgia with topical 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-OHT, an active tamoxifen metabolite). Two presurgical window trials in women with invasive breast cancer, and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) demonstrate that LTT decreases proliferation of invasive and non-invasive cancer cells to a similar degree as oral tamoxifen, with low systemic levels, and no effect on coagulation proteins. These data are promising regarding the use of LTT for the primary prevention of breast cancer, and for therapy of DCIS, since systemic exposure is not required for either of these purposes. They also suggest that an LTT approach could be developed for any small, lipophilic molecule with good dermal permeation, thus greatly expanding the menu of drugs that could be tested for breast cancer prevention.

Keywords: Breast; DCIS; Local transdermal therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / prevention & control*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / psychology*
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • Mastodynia / drug therapy
  • Nanoparticles
  • Permeability
  • Receptors, Progesterone / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Retinoids / administration & dosage
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption
  • Tamoxifen / administration & dosage
  • Tamoxifen / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacokinetics


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Gels
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Retinoids
  • Tamoxifen
  • afimoxifene
  • 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyltamoxifen