Tissue distribution of 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyltamoxifen and tamoxifen-N-oxide

Jennifer Gjerde, Sara Gandini, Aliana Guerrieri-Gonzaga, Line L. Haugan Moi, Valentina Aristarco, Gunnar Mellgren, Andrea De Censi, Ernst A. Lien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tamoxifen dosage is based on the one-dose-fitsall approach. The anticancer effect of tamoxifen is believed to be due to the metabolites, 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4OHtam), and 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyltamoxifen (4OHNDtam/endoxifen). These demethylated metabolites of tamoxifen have been associated with its side effects, whereas the effect mediated by tamoxifen-N-oxide (tamNox) is still poorly understood. Our objective was to improve the therapeutic index of tamoxifen by personalizing its dosage and maintaining serum tamoxifen metabolite concentrations within a target range. We examined the levels of tamoxifen, 4OHtam, 4OHNDtam, N-desmethyltamoxifen (NDtam), N-desdimethyltamoxifen (NDDtam), and tamNox in serum and in breast tumors specimens of 115 patients treated with 1, 5 or 20 mg/day of tamoxifen for 4 weeks before surgeryin arandomized trial. Furthermore, the metabolism of tamNox in MCF-7 breast cancer cells was also studied. The concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites in tumor tissues were significantly correlated to their serum levels. Tumor tissue levels were 5-10 times higher than those measured in serum, with the exception of tamNox. In MCF-7 cells, tamNox was converted back to tamoxifen. In contrast to the tissue distribution of tamNox, the concentrations of 4OH-tam and 4OHNDtam in tumor tissues corresponded to their serum levels. The results suggest that implementation of therapeutic drug monitoring may improve the therapeutic index of tamoxifen. Furthermore, the tissue distribution of tamNox deviated from that of the other tamoxifen metabolites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-700
Number of pages8
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • 4-OH-N-desmethyltamoxifen
  • Breast cancer
  • Endoxifen
  • MCF-7
  • Tamoxifen
  • Tamoxifen-N-oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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