Background: Lymphoma patients exposed to chest RT during adolescence/young adulthood are at increased risk for BC; the cumulative incidence exceeds 20% by age 45 and the BC risk is comparable to that in women with BRCA1 mutations. These findings present an urgent yet unmet need to reduce the risk of BC in RT-exposed lymphoma survivors. The risk of BC is 50% lower in chest RT-exposed survivors who also receive ovarian radiation, suggesting a critical role of endogenous estrogens in RT-related breast carcinogenesis, making tamoxifen (a selective estrogen receptor modulator) an attractive risk-reducing option. Tamoxifen administered at 20 mg/d is effective in BC prevention in other high risk populations, but severe adverse events (SAE: venous thromboembolism, endometrial cancer) have limited its broad use. Previous biomarker trials in the general population have shown that LDTam (5mg/d) is not inferior to tamoxifen at 20 mg/d in reducing BC risk, and is associated with a safer AE profile. Mammographic breast density (MBD) is an established biomarker of BC risk; high MBD is associated with a 4-fold higher risk of BC. We hypothesized that LDTam would be effective in reducing BC risk (using MBD as a primary endpoint) in chest RT-exposed lymphoma survivors. We used an investigator-initiated, multi-institutional, randomized phase IIb, double blind, placebo controlled trial (FDA IND 107367) to test this hypothesis.

Methods: Female patients from 13 sites were ≥25y at enrollment, with a history of exposure to chest RT at ≥12 Gy by age 40 for their primary cancer, and were off therapy for ≥6 mo. Subjects with a prior history of BC/DCIS, B/L mastectomy, or baseline MBD <25% in both breasts were excluded. Tamoxifen 5mg or identical placebo tablets were provided by Sharp Clinical Services (Allentown, PA) under good manufacturing practice. Subjects were randomized 1:1 in a double-blinded fashion by a Web-based system to receive LDTam or placebo daily for 2y. MBD (in both breasts) was measured centrally on digital scans independently by 3 radiologists at baseline, 1y and 2y. Using an intention-to-treat analysis, the efficacy of LDTam in reducing MBD was compared between the LDTam and placebo arms by applying a linear mixed effects model for bivariate normally distributed data with random intercept and time*treatment arm effects. Correlations between the left and right breasts and within radiologists were accounted for in the model. Treating clinicians and all research staff were blinded to the treatment arm.

Results: A total of 72 patients (LDTam: n=34; placebo: n=38) participated in the trial; primary diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma (86%); non-Hodgkin lymphoma (10%); other (3%); median age at diagnosis of primary cancer: 21.5y (IQR, 16-28), and at trial enrollment: 43.8y (35-49); median time from diagnosis of primary cancer to study: 17.0y (12-26). Median chest RT dose: 30.3 Gy (21-37.3); 11% had received pelvic radiation; 39% were post-menopausal at study. Participant characteristics were comparable between the two treatment arms, as was the mean baseline MBD (LDTam: 52.6% vs. placebo: 50.4%, p=0.6). The time*treatment arm effect was statistically significant (LDTam vs. placebo: estimate = -1.7, SE = 0.5, p = 0.001), indicating a significantly lower mean fitted MBD for LDTam (43.9%) vs. placebo (47.3%) at 2y (Figure). This represented a 16.5% relative reduction in MBD on the LDTam arm, corresponding to an estimated 33% lower risk of BC (assuming that reductions in MBD have the same benefit in lymphoma survivors as they do in the general population). There were no grade 3 or 4 AEs related to LDTam. Grade 2 AEs did not differ between treatment arms (LDTam: 44.1% vs. placebo: 36.8%, p=0.6). There was no difference in the prevalence of moderate-to-severe patient-reported outcomes between the treatment arms (Table).

Conclusion: Low-dose tamoxifen was associated with a significantly steeper decline in MBD in chest RT-exposed lymphoma survivors, when compared with placebo, and was safe and well-tolerated. This is the first trial demonstrating efficacy of a pharmacologic intervention in reducing a biomarker strongly associated with breast cancer risk in lymphoma survivors with a past history of chest radiation.


Palomares:Covance: Other: Medical monitoring. Henderson:Seattle Genetics: Research Funding.

OffLabel Disclosure:

The drug is a low-dose tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor modulator. Tamoxifen in standard doses is used to reduce the risk of breast cancer in high risk populations. Tamoxifen in standard or low doses have not been tested before for chest-irradiated cancer survivors to reduce the risk of radiation-related breast cancer.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

Sign in via your Institution