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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 985620, 15 pages
Review Article

Breast Cancer Chemoprevention: Old and New Approaches

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

Received 11 April 2012; Accepted 10 May 2012

Academic Editor: Su S. Chen

Copyright © 2012 Massimiliano Cazzaniga and Bernardo Bonanni. 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.


In 1976, Sporn has defined chemoprevention as “the use of pharmacologic or natural agents that inhibit the development of invasive breast cancer either by blocking the DNA damage that initiates carcinogenesis, or by arresting or reversing the progression of premalignant cells in which such damage has already occurred.” Although the precise mechanism or mechanisms that promote a breast cancer are not completely established, the success of several recent clinical trials in preventive settings in selected high-risk populations suggests that chemoprevention is a rational and an appealing strategy. Breast cancer chemoprevention has focused heavily on endocrine intervention using selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) and aromatase inhibitors (AIs). Achieving much success in this particular setting and new approaches as low-dose administration are actually under investigations in several topics. Unfortunately, these drugs are active in prevention of endocrine responsive lesions only and have no effect in reducing the risk of estrogen-negative breast cancer. Thus, recently new pathways, biomarkers, and agents likely are to be effective in this subgroup of cancers and were put under investigation. Moreover, the identification of new potential molecular targets and the development of agents aimed at these targets within cancer have already had a significant impact on advanced cancer therapy and provide a wealth of opportunities for chemoprevention. This paper will highlight current clinical research in both ER-positive and ER-negative breast cancer chemoprevention, explaining the biologic effect of the various agents on carcinogenesis and precancerous lesions, and finally presenting an excursus on the state-of-the-art about new molecular targets under investigations in breast cancer settings.