PMID: 10680075

Chemoprevention of breast cancer in the older patient .

Age is the most important risk factor for the development of breast cancer .

The risk of breast cancer continues to increase in American women until the age of 80 years .

A family history of breast cancer helps identify those who possibly have the highest risk of developing breast cancer ; however , most women who develop breast cancer do not have a first-degree relative with a history of breast cancer .

Currently , the Gail model is a commonly used model to identify risk , and this model has now been validated in several populations of women undergoing screening for breast cancer .

The first large-scale breast cancer prevention trial investigating the preventive effects of tamoxifen has demonstrated a decrease in the development of breast cancer by almost 50 % in the women in the tamoxifen treatment arm as compared with those receiving placebo .

The NSABP P-1 trial was the largest of the three tamoxifen breast cancer prevention trials and had the greatest power to detect a difference between the two treatment groups in breast cancer events .

This trial also included the largest percentage of postmenopausal women .

It is unclear why the Italian and Royal Marsden Hospital trials had negative results regarding the preventive effects of tamoxifen .

These two trials were strikingly different from the NSABP P-1 trial , however , and they included a different population of women .

The issues surrounding the use of HRT for treatment of hot flashes in the Italian and Royal Marsden Hospital trials adds to the controversy concerning the negative results of these trials .

The new SERM , raloxifene , has shown promise in preliminary studies as a preventive agent for breast cancer .

The STAR trial will open soon and will evaluate the efficacy of raloxifene in preventing breast cancer in a prospective fashion , comparing its efficacy with tamoxifen treatment .

Other endpoints will evaluate side effects such as menopausal symptoms , endometrial cancer , thromboembolic events , and benefits regarding serum lipids and incidence of osteoporotic bone fractures .

The development of SERMs results from an understanding of novel mechanisms of ER modulation and allows targeting for favorable effects in specific tissues .

The challenge is to develop an ideal SERM that is effective in preventing breast cancer and does not increase the risk of endometrial cancer , while providing beneficial estrogenic effects on serum lipids and bone mineral density changes .

Estrogen receptor-mediated intracellular processes are complex .

There are at least two different types of estrogen receptors .

The alpha receptors predominate in the breast and uterus , and the beta receptors predominate in the bone and blood vessels .

Many proteins also interact with these receptors as co-activators or co-repressors .

Transcription-activating factors modulate the effects of estrogen on its target genes .

Future prevention strategies may use a combined targeted approach to inhibit ER-mediated cancer progression pathways .

The retinoids are under investigation in prevention studies for a multitude of cancers , because they have been shown to inhibit cellular proliferation and to induce cellular differentiation .

The retinoid 4HPR was selected for use in breast cancer prevention studies because of its low toxicity profile and prevention efficacy in preclinical studies .

It is now being used in combination with tamoxifin in a phase II breast cancer prevention trial .

Multiple surrogate endpoint biomarkers are being measured before and after treatment , including measurement of serum IGF-I levels .

Future directions in breast cancer prevention include the development of more potent hormonal therapies that completely inhibit ER-mediated cancer progression and , ultimately , multitargeted therapies involving agents that work synergistically .