Several metabolites of tamoxifen, including 4-hydroxy-N-desmethyltamoxifen (metabolite BX), 4-hydroxytamoxifen (metabolite B), N-desmethyltamoxifen (metabolite X), the primary alcohol (metabolite Y), and N-desdimethyltamoxifen (metabolite Z) were identified and their concentrations determined in fluids and feces from patients receiving chronic tamoxifen treatment. The biological samples investigated were serum, pleural, pericardial and peritoneal effusions, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, bile, feces, and urine.

In serum, tamoxifen itself, and the metabolites X and Z were the prevailing species, but significant amounts of the metabolites Y, B, and BX were also detected. About 3 h after drug intake tamoxifen as well as Y, B, BX, X, and Z showed a peak in serum. This may be explained by efficient metabolism of the metabolite precursor before being distributed to peripheral compartments. Upon drug withdrawal all metabolites showed first-order elimination curves which paralleled that of tamoxifen suggesting that their rate of elimination exceeded that of tamoxifen and that the serum levels are production rate limited. The protein binding of tamoxifen and its major serum metabolites (Y, X, Z) was determined and found to be higher than 98%. Albumin was the predominant carrier for tamoxifen in human plasma.

The concentrations of tamoxifen and its metabolites in pleural, pericardial, and peritoneal effusions equalled those detected in serum, corresponding to an effusion/serum ratio between 0.2 and 1. Only trace amounts of tamoxifen and metabolite X were detected in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF/serum ratio <0.02). In saliva, concentrations of tamoxifen and X exceeded the amounts of free drug in serum, suggesting active transport or trapping of these compounds in the salivary gland. Bile and urine were rich in the hydroxylated, conjugated metabolites (Y, B, and BX), whereas in feces unconjugated metabolite B and tamoxifen were the predominating species.


This work was supported by grants from the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Norwegian Society for Fighting Cancer, The Norwegian Medical Depot, and the Michael Irgens Flocks legat.

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