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CYP2D6 gene variants: association with breast cancer specific survival in a cohort of breast cancer patients from the United Kingdom treated with adjuvant tamoxifen

Jean E Abraham123*, Mel J Maranian1, Kristy E Driver1, Radka Platte1, Bolot Kalmyrzaev1, Caroline Baynes1, Craig Luccarini1, Mitul Shah1, Susan Ingle2, David Greenberg4, Helena M Earl12, Alison M Dunning1, Paul DP Pharoah1 and Carlos Caldas123

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oncology, Strangeways Research Laboratory, University of Cambridge, 2 Worts Causeway, Cambridge, CB1 8RN, UK

2 Cambridge Breast Unit and NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, University of Cambridge NHS Foundation Hospitals, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ, UK

3 Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 0RE, UK

4 Eastern Cancer Registration and Information Centre, Unit C-Magog Court, Shelford Bottom, Hinton Way, Cambridge, CB22 3AD, UK

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Breast Cancer Research 2010, 12:R64  doi:10.1186/bcr2629

Published: 23 August 2010



Tamoxifen is one of the most effective adjuvant breast cancer therapies available. Its metabolism involves the phase I enzyme, cytochrome P4502D6 (CYP2D6), encoded by the highly polymorphic CYP2D6 gene. CYP2D6 variants resulting in poor metabolism of tamoxifen are hypothesised to reduce its efficacy. An FDA-approved pre-treatment CYP2D6 gene testing assay is available. However, evidence from published studies evaluating CYP2D6 variants as predictive factors of tamoxifen efficacy and clinical outcome are conflicting, querying the clinical utility of CYP2D6 testing. We investigated the association of CYP2D6 variants with breast cancer specific survival (BCSS) in breast cancer patients receiving tamoxifen.


This was a population based case-cohort study. We genotyped known functional variants (n = 7; minor allele frequency (MAF) > 0.01) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (n = 5; MAF > 0.05) tagging all known common variants (tagSNPs), in CYP2D6 in 6640 DNA samples from patients with invasive breast cancer from SEARCH (Studies of Epidemiology and Risk factors in Cancer Heredity); 3155 cases had received tamoxifen therapy. There were 312 deaths from breast cancer, in the tamoxifen treated patients, with over 18000 years of cumulative follow-up. The association between genotype and BCSS was evaluated using Cox proportional hazards regression analysis.


In tamoxifen treated patients, there was weak evidence that the poor-metaboliser variant, CYP2D6*6 (MAF = 0.01), was associated with decreased BCSS (P = 0.02; HR = 1.95; 95% CI = 1.12-3.40). No other variants, including CYP2D6*4 (MAF = 0.20), previously reported to be associated with poorer clinical outcomes, were associated with differences in BCSS, in either the tamoxifen or non-tamoxifen groups.


CYP2D6*6 may affect BCSS in tamoxifen-treated patients. However, the absence of an association with survival in more frequent variants, including CYP2D6*4, questions the validity of the reported association between CYP2D6 genotype and treatment response in breast cancer. Until larger, prospective studies confirming any associations are available, routine CYP2D6 genetic testing should not be used in the clinical setting.