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Open Access Estrous Cycle and Ovarian Changes in a Rat Mammary Carcinogenesis Model after Irradiation, Tamoxifen Chemoprevention, and Aging

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Purpose: Variation in the effects of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) on the estrous cycle and reproductive organs during aging could play an important role in the observed heterogeneity of tamoxifen chemoprevention efficacy against breast cancer.

Methods: Of the 1,022 female Sprague Dawley rats enrolled in a long-term tamoxifen chemoprevention study, 87 were randomly chosen from four groups (irradiated, irradiated and tamoxifen treated, tamoxifen treated, and control). Vaginal smears were evaluated for determination of cycle stage, and vaginal pathologic changes. Correlation with the histologic features of reproductive tissues in 43 animals was made.

Results: More tamoxifen-treated (21.9%; 7/32) rats had irregular cycling than did control (9%; 3/23) rats. Ovarian granulosa cell hyperplasia was present in 50% (3/6) of tamoxifen-treated rats, and 20% (2/10) of control rats. Endometrial-type cells (ETCs) were present only in tamoxifen-treated (tamoxifen alone 6.25% [2/32]) and tamoxifen/radiation-treated (28.6% [4/14]) rats.

Conclusion: The modified Papanicolaou stain used here provided excellent morphologic detail for evaluating the estrous cycle in rodents. Tamoxifen altered vaginal cytologic and ovarian histologic features during aging. Results indicated that tamoxifen had direct and indirect effects on the reproductive tract, causing disturbance of the estrous cycle, shedding of ETCs, and promoting granulosa cell hyperplasia. Understanding of the heterogeneous response to tamoxifen chemoprevention during aging in rodents may provide important insights into the basis for tamoxifen chemoprevention failures in humans.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Comparative Medicine, Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21287

Publication date: 01 October 2003

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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