Molecular markers for predicting response to tamoxifen in breast cancer patients

Daniel R. Ciocca, Richard Elledge

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Tamoxifen is one of the most effective treatments for breast cancer. Standard practice is to select patients who are likely to respond to this therapy through the evaluation of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) in the primary tumor tissue. Over the past 25 yr that physicians have been using ER determination to guide tamoxifen use, numerous studies have demonstrated that this molecular marker is useful in predicting benefit from tamoxifen. ER has been analyzed for many years using ligand-binding assays. However, current practice involves the use of immunohistochemical-based assays to detect ERα Immunohistochemistry (IHC) has several advantages. For example, IHC evaluates tumor cell heterogeneity, can be used to study small samples, is less expensive, and allows direct correlation with multiple histopathological tumor features and other molecular markers. PR, an estrogen-responsive protein, can also be useful in predicting response to tamoxifen in specific clinical situations. In recent years, several other markers of tamoxifen response have been examined, including: pS2 (another estrogen-regulated protein), heat-shock proteins 27 and 70, bcl-2 protein, c-erbB-2 (HER-2/neu) oncoprotein, and mutated p53 tumor suppressor protein. In this article, we present an analysis of the data on these new molecular markers. Overall, from numerous studies, the data indicate that in addition to ERα bcl-2 is a potential candidate to help further improve our ability to predict response to tamoxifen. ER and bcl-2 are the most useful molecular markers to better identify breast cancer patients who will respond to tamoxifen and who will have prolonged survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Bcl-2
  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen receptors
  • Heat-shock proteins
  • Molecular markers
  • PS2
  • Progesterone receptors
  • Tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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