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Background: This study provides a direct randomized comparison of a new- generation, non-steroidal aromatase inhibitor, anastrozole (Arimidex®), with a steroidal aromatase inhibitor (formestane) with respect to oestrogen (oestradiol, oestrone, and oestrone sulphate) suppression and tolerability. Patients and methods: Sixty postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer were randomized to receive either anastrozole 1 mg once daily orally (n = 29), or formestane 250 mg once every two weeks by intramuscular injection (n = 31). Treatment was continued until progression of disease or withdrawal from the study. The primary endpoints of this study were oestradiol suppression and tolerability. The secondary endpoints included oestrone and oestrone sulphate suppression. All laboratory analyses were conducted 'blind' of the randomized drug treatment. Results: Anastrozole produced a greater and more consistent suppression of oestradiol levels compared with formestane. Based on two- and four-week measurements, the mean fall from baseline (pre- dose) in oestradiol level was 79% and 58% in the anastrozole and formestane groups, respectively (P = 0.0001). After four weeks of treatment, oestrone and oestrone sulphate levels were also suppressed to a greater extent by anastrozole compared with formestane (oestrone: 85% versus 67%, respectively, P = 0.0043; oestrone sulphate: 92% versus 67%, respectively, P = 0.0007). No statistical differences were seen between the two drugs in the incidence of adverse events. Conclusions: Anastrozole provides a more consistent and significantly more effective suppression of oestradiol compared with formestane. Similar results were observed for oestrone and oestrone sulphate. The clinical significance of these differences in total oestrogen suppression remains to be established.

Original publication




Journal article


Annals of Oncology

Publication Date





1219 - 1225