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Aromatase inhibitors, efficacy and metabolic risk in the treatment of postmenopausal women with early breast cancer

Authors Gonnelli S, Petrioli R

Published 5 December 2008 Volume 2008:3(4) Pages 647—657

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S3466

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Stefano Gonnelli1, Roberto Petrioli2

1Department of Internal Medicine, Endocrine-Metabolic Science and Biochemistry, University of Siena, Italy (Dir. R. Nuti.); 2Department of Human Pathology and Oncology, Medical Oncology Section, University of Siena, Italy (Dir. G. Francini)

Abstract: The third-generation aromatase inhibitors (AIs), letrozole, anastrozole and exemestane, are becoming the first choice endocrine drugs for post-menopausal women with breast cancer, since they present greater efficacy when compared with tamoxifen in both adjuvant and metastatic setting. In particular, several large and well designed trials have suggested an important role for AIs in the adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer either in the upfront, sequential or extended adjuvant mode. Overall, AIs are associated with a small but significant improvement in disease free survival. The expanding use of AIs in the treatment of early breast cancer means that individual patients will be exposed to the agents for longer durations, making it increasingly important to establish their long-term safety. This review focused on the effects of AIs on bone metabolism, serum lipids and cardiovascular risk. AIs have adverse effects on bone turnover with a reduction of bone mineral density and an increase in the rate of fragility fractures. With respect to tamoxifen AIs present lower thrombotic risk and a less favorable impact on lipid profile, whereas the true effects on cardiovascular risk still remain to be clarified. An adequate monitoring of bone mineral density (BMD) and lipid profile could be recommended for post-menopausal women candidate to AIs.

Keywords: breast cancer, aromatase inhibitors, bone loss, lipids, cardiovascular risk

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