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Alistair Ring and Mitch Dowsett

The anti-oestrogen tamoxifen is the most commonly used treatment for patients with oestrogen-receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer. Although many patients benefit from tamoxifen in the adjuvant and metastatic settings, resistance is an important clinical problem. The target of tamoxifen in vivo is the ER. Over the last decade many advances have been made in our understanding of the biology of the ER which may help to explain how resistance to tamoxifen develops. Such mechanisms may include changes in the expression of ERα or ERβ, alterations in co-regulatory proteins, and the influences of cellular kinase signal transduction pathways. The experimental and clinical evidence supporting these mechanisms of tamoxifen resistance are discussed in this review.