Tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 1993 Jun;14(3):173-88. doi: 10.1016/1040-8428(93)90008-r.


Tamoxifen (TAM) resistance is the underlying cause of treatment failure in many breast cancer patients receiving TAM. The mechanism(s) involved in TAM resistance are poorly understood. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed but only limited evidence exists to substantiate them. Studies have now shown that in many patients TAM resistance is not related to the down regulation or loss of estrogen receptors (ER). Variant ER have been identified, but their significance clinically remains to be proven. Since breast cancer cells secrete several estrogen-regulated growth factors and growth inhibitors that may have autocrine or paracrine activity, altered growth factor production is another possible mechanism for TAM resistance. Tissue-specific transcription activating factors that may alter how the signal induced by TAM binding to the receptor is interpreted by the cell also require further investigation. An increase in antiestrogen binding sites (AEBS), which could effectively partition TAM and reduce its concentration at the ER has also been proposed as a potential mechanism. Pharmacologic mechanisms, such as a shift in metabolism toward the accumulation of estrogenic metabolites, are supported by recent data demonstrating metabolite E and bisphenol in tumors from TAM-resistant patients. Furthermore, a decrease in tumor TAM accumulation and an altered metabolite profile have been reported in TAM-resistant breast tumors grown in nude mice. These and other studies suggest that TAM resistance may be multifactorial in nature, but definitive identification of mechanisms that are operative in clinical TAM resistance requires further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects
  • Tamoxifen / metabolism
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Tamoxifen