Variable aromatase inhibitor plasma concentrations do not correlate with circulating estrogen concentrations in post-menopausal breast cancer patients

Daniel L. Hertz, Kelly A. Speth, Kelley M. Kidwell, Christina L. Gersch, Zeruesenay Desta, Anna Maria Storniolo, Vered Stearns, Todd C. Skaar, Daniel F. Hayes, N. Lynn Henry, James M. Rae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: The aromatase inhibitors (AI) exemestane (EXE), letrozole (LET), and anastrozole suppress estrogen biosynthesis, and are effective treatments for estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. Prior work suggests that anastrozole blood concentrations are associated with the magnitude of estrogen suppression. The objective of this study was to determine whether the magnitude of estrogen suppression, as determined by plasma estradiol (E2) concentrations, in EXE or LET treated patients is associated with plasma AI concentrations. Methods: Five hundred post-menopausal women with ER-positive breast cancer were enrolled in the prospective Exemestane and Letrozole Pharmacogenetic (ELPh) Study conducted by the COnsortium on BReast cancer phArmacogomics (COBRA) and randomly assigned to either drug. Estrogen concentrations were measured at baseline and after 3 months of AI treatment and drug concentrations were measured after 1 or 3 months. EXE or LET concentrations were compared with 3-month E2 concentration or the change from baseline to 3 months using several complementary statistical procedures. Results: Four-hundred patients with on-treatment E2 and AI concentrations were evaluable (EXE n = 200, LET n = 200). Thirty (7.6%) patients (EXE n = 13, LET n = 17) had 3-month E2 concentrations above the lower limit of quantification (LLOQ) (median: 4.75; range: 1.42–63.8 pg/mL). EXE and LET concentrations were not associated with on-treatment E2 concentrations or changes in E2 concentrations from baseline (all p > 0.05). Conclusions: Steady-state plasma AI concentrations do not explain variability in E2 suppression in post-menopausal women receiving EXE or LET therapy, in contrast with prior evidence in anastrozole treated patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)659-668
Number of pages10
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017



  • Aromatase inhibitor
  • Breast cancer
  • Estradiol
  • Exemestane
  • Letrozole
  • Pharmacokinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

Cite this