Purpose: To optimize treatment strategies for postmenopausal breast cancer patients, we investigated the efficacy of the steroidal aromatase inhibitor exemestane alone or in combination with the antiestrogen tamoxifen in a xenograft model of postmenopausal breast cancer. We also determined the effects of these agents in sequential second-line therapy and the effect of the nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor letrozole on tumors that progressed on the above treatments. Experimental: Aromatase-transfected human estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells (MCF-7Ca) were grown as tumors in ovariectomized athymic mice. Animals received subcutaneous injection with vehicle, tamoxifen, exemestane, tamoxifen plus exemestane, and letrozole. Tumor volumes were measured weekly. Results: All treatments were effective initially in suppressing umor growth as first-line therapy compared with vehicle treatment. Exemestane suppressed tumor growth to a greater extent than tamoxifen. However, the combination of tamoxifen plus exemestane was more effective than either drug alone. After tumor volumes doubled on initial treatment, the mice were crossed over to receive exemestane or tamoxifen. Tumor growth slowed briefly in mice treated with tamoxifen and crossed over to exemestane, but tumor growth continued unabated in those changed from exemestane to tamoxifen. However, letrozole was effective in both groups as third-line therapy for a limited period. Letrozole as initial single agent was the best overall treatment in terms of the degree of tumor suppression and the length of effectiveness of treatment. Conclusion: Exemestane was more effective in controlling tumor growth than tamoxifen. In addition, the combination of exemestane plus tamoxifen was clearly more effective than sequential use of these agents in the tumor model. However, the nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor letrozole as first-line therapy was overall the most effective treatment in controlling tumor growth.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research