New mode of action discovered for tamoxifen

aw in breast cancer cell lines," said Zhila Khalkhali-Ellis, Ph.D., UI associate research scientist and lead author of the study. "The importance of the study is that it demonstrates the ability of tamoxifen to up-regulate a tumor suppressor gene that has important consequences in inhibiting breast cancer invasion and metastasis. This has not been shown before. I think we can really use that information to improve treatment protocols."

Although tamoxifen has been proven clinically effective at treating and, in some cases, preventing breast cancer, this drug has two significant problems. Long-term use of tamoxifen, like many other cancer drugs, can lead to drug resistance and tamoxifen often causes unpleasant side effects. The finding that tamoxifen can up-regulate maspin expression may lead to the development of related drugs that can better target the maspin gene without producing side effects. The UI researchers also suggest that in light of this finding current tamoxifen treatment regimens should be reevaluated to monitor exactly how tamoxifen controls maspin expression and determine if different treatment protocols could maintain maspin expression while limiting drug resistance.

"In the best case scenario, longer exposure to tamoxifen results in a stronger re-expression of maspin for longer periods of time," said Mary Hendrix, Ph.D., the senior investigator on the study. "Following a tumor suppressor gene, such as maspin, offers an unique opportunity to track the efficacy of chemotherapy both during and after therapy."


Contact: Jennifer Brown
University of Iowa

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