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TAMOXIFEN AND BREAST CANCER: IS TAMOXIFEN MORE EFFECTIVE IF ESTROGEN RECEPTORS ARE PRESENT IN THE TUMOR?

Over the years numerous scientific investigators have been able to isolate estrogen receptors from breast cancer cells and demonstrate their binding to estrogen, as well as the blockage of such binding by tamoxifen. Estrogen receptors consist of amino acids that are linked together to form a protein. A receptor-positive cell contains many hundreds or thousands of these receptors, which are located in the nucleus, near where the genetic information is stored. They are also present in the cytoplasm, where much of the cell's work is performed. Estrogen receptors have been found in cells other than breast cancer tissues. They occur in many normal cells including the bone, the liver, the endometrium (lining of the uterus), and normal breast tissue.

The ability to isolate estrogen receptors led to the further study of this protein and to the development of a method to measure the content of estrogen receptors in breast cancer tissues. This technique helped physicians to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from the use of tamoxifen. Although the earliest diagnostic tests were relatively crude and often led to false results, the estrogen receptor tests utilized today offer much more accurate results. If the presence of estrogen receptors is detected in biopsy tissue taken from a cancerous breast, then tamoxifen has a substantial chance of being effective.

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Cancer