Flow cytometry: Potential utility in monitoring drug effects in breast cancer

Steven K. Koester, Juhani U. Maenpaa, Valerie J. Wiebe, W. Jeffrey Baker, Gregory T. Wurz, Robert C. Seymour, R. Ellen Koehler, Michael W. DeGregorio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Flow cytometric analysis of DNA ploidy and S-phase fraction are well recognized prognostic indicators in breast cancer. The present paper deals with the widening of the applications of flow cytometry to monitoring the effectiveness of antiestrogen therapy, detecting clonal selection and emergence of drug resistance, and monitoring chemosensitizing properties of drugs. Antiestrogen activity can be studied by DNA flow cytometry to address clinical research problems such as patient-specific pharmacokinetics, dosing compliance, and acquired antiestrogen resistance. Patient plasma specimens containing various concentrations of triphenylethylenes can be monitored for drug-induced effects using cell cycle measurements and correlated to in vivo drug levels. DNA flow cytometry has also been instrumental in the study of the effects of prolonged low-dose (0.5 μM for > 100 days) tamoxifen treatment on human estrogen receptor negative MDA-MB-231 cells, where it was shown that tamoxifen may significantly alter cell cycle kinetics and tumorigenicity of these cells, selecting a new, more aggressive, and rapidly growing clone. Lastly, it has been shown that the chemosensitizing properties of another triphenylethylene antiestrogen, toremifene, on estrogen receptor negative, multidrug resistant MDA-MB-231-A1 human breast cancer cells can be studied using flow cytometric analysis. Toremifene (and its metabolites N-desmethyltoremifene and toremifene IV) are able to "resensitize" MDA-MB-231-A1 cells to vinblastine and doxorubicin, as reflected in a marked shift of cells to G2/M phase of the cell cycle. Flow cytometry is a widely available technique that might be applied clinically to monitor, at the cellular level, drug effects on tumors, including the modulators of drug resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-65
Number of pages9
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • antiestrogens
  • breast cancer
  • drug resistance
  • flow cytometry
  • tamoxifen
  • toremifene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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