Cardiff’s own have managed to reveal the genetic cause of tamoxifen resistance in women, using a rare cell-line produced by the University. They have also clarified the mechanism by which the cancer-drug works.
While tamoxifen has been understood to be an oestrogen blocker for a number of years, the work done by the team at the Welsh School of Pharmacy showed which genes tamoxifen affects. It was found that ErbB2 must be ‘switched-off’ by tamoxifen in order to prevent recurrence of breast cancer, using a control switch “in the background of the genome“. This is held in position by signalling molecule Pax2. Results have been published in Nature.
The results have come not long after the revelation that many breast cancer patients are not taking tamoxifen properly or even completing the course, significantly increasing the risk of recurrence. Reasons cited include the suggestion that patients put less emphasis on taking a tablet than they would on chemotherapy. Published in the British Journal of Cancer the paper has received surprisingly little press attention with only B2Bs like Nursing Times and Healthcare Republic giving it any space.
Interestingly, The Western Mail not too long ago speculated that at-risk women may be given tamoxifen as a preventative measure. Trials are still ongoing, alongside another trial by IBIS who are looking at ways to prevent breast cancer.