Exemestane: a review of its use in postmenopausal women with breast cancer

Emma D Deeks, Lesley J Scott
Drugs 2009, 69 (7): 889-918
Exemestane (Aromasin) is an orally active steroidal irreversible inactivator of the aromatase enzyme indicated as an adjuvant treatment in postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor-positive early-stage breast cancer following 2-3 years of adjuvant treatment with tamoxifen, and for the treatment of advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women whose disease has progressed following tamoxifen or other antiestrogen therapy. Exemestane is effective for the treatment of postmenopausal women with early-stage or advanced breast cancer. In early-stage disease, switching to exemestane for 2-3 years after 2-3 years of adjuvant tamoxifen treatment was more effective in prolonging disease-free survival than continuing tamoxifen therapy, although it was not associated with an overall survival benefit, except in those with estrogen receptor-positive or unknown receptor status disease when nodal status, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and chemotherapy use were adjusted for. Moreover, preliminary data suggest that the efficacy of exemestane is generally no different to that of tamoxifen in the primary adjuvant treatment of early-stage breast cancer, although exemestane may be better in prolonging the time to distant recurrence. In advanced disease, exemestane showed equivalent efficacy to megestrol in patients with disease refractory to tamoxifen and an efficacy not significantly different from that of fulvestrant in those refractory to a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor. Available data, some of which are limited, suggest exemestane is also effective in the first-line hormonal treatment of advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Exemestane is generally well tolerated, although the potential bone fracture risk of the drug requires further investigation. Results from directly comparative trials indicating the efficacy, tolerability and bone fracture risk of exemestane relative to third-generation aromatase inhibitors and other agents in both early-stage and advanced disease, as well as the optimal sequence of endocrine therapies, are awaited with interest. In the meantime, switching to exemestane should be considered in postmenopausal women who have received 2-3 years of adjuvant tamoxifen treatment for early-stage breast cancer, and is an emerging treatment option for postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer refractory to one or more antiestrogen therapies.

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