Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund
Tamoxifen is an estrogen-like drug that is used to treat breast cancer patients, breast cancer survivors, and patients with a family history of breast cancer. As a treatment, tamoxifen is extremely effective at decreasing the changes of getting cancer and increasing patient survival. Unfortunately, tamoxifen also causes negative side effects such as hot flashes and bone loss. Because of these concerns, up to a quarter of all patients fail to complete the treatment. The goal of our research is to understand how tamoxifen can cause hot flashes and bone loss. We will use genetically engineered mice to identify the brain regions that mediate the effects of tamoxifen on temperature control and bone density. We will also use cutting-edge molecular tools to determine precisely how these brain regions are affected by tamoxifen. To model the treatment conditions in humans, our studies use females of reproductive age and a long-term treatment using the same dosage given to humans. In the end, our studies will identify the specific areas that are responsible for the negative effects of tamoxifen. This information will help us design and begin to test strategies for alleviating hot flashes and/or bone loss in patients. Any treatments that provide relief from the side effects of tamoxifen will increase patient quality of life, increase the chances that patients will complete their treatments, and ultimately save lives.