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Exemestane, FCE-24304, (trade name Aromasin) is a drug used to treat breast cancer. It is a member of the class of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. Some breast cancers require estrogen to grow. Those cancers have estrogen receptors (ERs), and are called ER-positive. They may also be called estrogen-responsive, hormonally-responsive, or hormone-receptor-positive. Aromatase is an enzyme that synthesizes estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors block the synthesis of estrogen. This lowers the estrogen level, and slows the growth of cancers.
Exemestane is an oral steroidal aromatase inhibitor that is used in ER-positive breast cancer in addition to surgery and/or radiation in post-menopausal women.
The main source of estrogen is the ovaries in premenopausal women, while in post-menopausal women most of the body's estrogen is produced via the conversion of androgens into estrogen by the aromatase enzyme in the peripheral tissues (i.e. adipose tissue like that of the breast) and a number of sites in the brain. Estrogen is produced locally via the actions of the aromatase enzyme in these peripheral tissues where it acts locally. Any circulating estrogen in post-menopausal women as well as men is the result of estrogen escaping local metabolism and entering the circulatory system.
Exemestane is an irreversible, steroidal aromatase inactivator, structurally related to the natural substrate androstenedione. It acts as a false substrate for the aromatase enzyme, and is processed to an intermediate that binds irreversibly to the active site of the enzyme causing its inactivation, an effect also known as "suicide inhibition." By being structurally similar to enzyme targets, Exemestane permanently binds to the enzymes, preventing them from converting androgen into estrogen.
Exemestane is indicated for the adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal women with estrogen-receptor positive early breast cancer who have received two to three years of tamoxifen and are switched to it for completion of a total of five consecutive years of adjuvant hormonal therapy. US FDA approval was in October 2005.
A Phase III trial has been reported which concluded that the use of exemestane in postmenopausal women at an increased risk for breast cancer reduced the incidence of invasive breast cancer. In 4,560 women, after 35 months, the administration of exemestane at a dose of 25 mg/day resulted in a 65% reduction in the risk of breast cancer compared with placebo; annual incidence rates were 0.19% and 0.55%, respectively (hazard ratio: 0.35; 95% CI [0.18-0.70]; p = 0.002).
Oral exemestane 25 mg/day for 2–3 years of adjuvant therapy was generally more effective than 5 years of continuous adjuvant tamoxifen in the treatment of postmenopausal women with early-stage estrogen receptor-positive/unknown receptor status breast in a large well-designed trial. Preliminary data from the open-label TEAM trial comparing exemestane with tamoxifen indicates that exemestane 25 mg/day is also effective in the primary adjuvant treatment of early-stage breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Interim phase III trial results in 2011 show that adding Afinitor (everolimus) to exemestane therapy against advanced breast cancer can significantly improve progression-free survival compared with exemestane therapy alone.
- Exemestane, at ChEBI
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- Aromasin For Advanced Breast Cancer
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- "Positive Trial Data Leads Novartis to Plan Breast Cancer Filing for Afinitor by Year End". 2011.