The choice of endocrine therapy for breast cancer depends on the menopausal status and stage of disease. Endocrine therapy remains the first choice and most important component in the treatment of hormone sensitive non-life threatening advanced breast cancer. In premenopausal women with metastatic disease, the combination of a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH) agonist plus tamoxifen is reasonable as first-line endocrine therapy. In postmenopausal patients with recurrent disease progressing after or during adjuvant tamoxifen, third-generation aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are the preferred first-line endocrine treatment. Many premenopausal and postmenopausal women with hormone responsive breast cancer benefit from sequential use of endocrine therapies at the time of disease progression. Recent clinical trials designs have been implemented, employing AIs as monotherapy in postmenopausal breast cancer patients, as first-line adjuvant therapy, and in sequence either 2-3 or 5 years, with initial tamoxifen. Emerging results from these trials indicate an advantage to patients for any of these strategies, and most international guidelines now suggest the use of an AI in the adjuvant setting in postmenopausal women. The use of endocrine treatment for metastatic and early breast cancer will be reviewed here.
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