Letrozole in the treatment of breast cancer.
Over the last 30 years the role of tamoxifen in breast cancer treatment has been progressively expanded by clinical investigation to encompass the entire spectrum of disease from cancer chemoprevention to palliation of advanced disease. The primacy of tamoxifen for these indications in postmenopausal women is now under challenge by the selective aromatase inhibitors, a class of endocrine agent that induces oestrogen deprivation rather than oestrogen receptor blockade. This review considers the biochemical, pharmacological and clinical properties of the nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor letrozole. This agent is superior to tamoxifen for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, a finding that suggests that letrozole may ultimately eclipse tamoxifen for other indications, including chemoprevention. Further clinical investigation will be necessary to establish the risks and benefits of letrozole versus tamoxifen for each new indication, with adjuvant therapy being the next in line. The object of this review is to provide a reference source on the biochemical, pharmacological and clinical properties of letrozole for clinicians to consider both established and future indications.
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