Published for the Society of Endocrinology by the Journal of Endocrinology Ltd.
Endocrine-related Cancer vol:21 issue:1 pages:R31-49
Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in women and responsible for significant female cancer-related mortality worldwide. In the Western world, over 80% of breast cancers are hormone-receptor positive for which endocrine therapy is administered. The main anti-estrogen treatments in use consist of selective estrogen-receptor modulators, such as tamoxifen, and third-generation aromatase inhibitors (AIs), such as exemestane, letrozole, and anastrozole. In this review, the focus will lie on exemestane, its clinical use, and its side-effect profile. Exemestane is the only third-generation steroidal AI. Its efficacy as a first-line treatment in metastatic breast cancer has been demonstrated. Therefore, exemestane could be considered a valid first-line therapeutic option, but it also can be used in second-line or further situations. Exemestane is mostly used as part of sequential adjuvant treatment following tamoxifen, but in this setting it is also active in monotherapy. Furthermore, this AI has been studied in the neoadjuvant setting as presurgical treatment, and even as chemoprevention in high-risk healthy postmenopausal women. It may reverse side effects of tamoxifen, such as endometrial changes and thromboembolic disease but may also cause some inconvenient side effects itself. Additionally, there is a lack of total cross-resistance between exemestane and nonsteroidal AIs as far as their anti-tumoral efficacy is concerned; moreover the two classes of AIs display a nontotal overlapping toxicity profile. Taking together, exemestane can be considered as a useful treatment option at all stages of breast cancer.