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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2012, Article ID 172897, 9 pages
Review Article

Fenretinide (4-HPR): A Preventive Chance for Women at Genetic and Familial Risk?

Division of Cancer Prevention and Genetics, European Institute of Oncology, 20141 Milan, Italy

Received 5 October 2011; Revised 12 December 2011; Accepted 15 December 2011

Academic Editor: Dianne R. Soprano

Copyright © 2012 Massimiliano Cazzaniga et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The incidence and mortality of breast cancer have been recently influenced by several new therapeutic strategies. In particular our knowledge on cancer precursors, risk biomarkers, and genetics has considerably increased, and prevention strategies are being successfully explored. Since their discovery, retinoids, the natural and synthetic derivatives of vitamin A, have been known to play a crucial role in cell and tissue differentiation and their ability to inhibit carcinogenesis has made them the ideal chemopreventive agents studied in several preclinical and clinical trials. Fenretinide (4-HPR) is the most studied retinoid in breast cancer chemoprevention clinical trials due to its selective accumulation in breast tissue and its favorable toxicological profile. This agent showed a significative reduction of the incidence of second breast tumors in premenopausal women confirmed after 15-year followups. Considering Fenretinide protective action, a similar trend on ovarian cancer, this drug warrants reevaluations as a preventive agent for high-risk young women, such as BRCA-1 and 2 mutation carriers or with a high familial risk. This favorable effect therefore provides a strong rationale for a primary prevention trial in these unaffected cohort of women.