Simultaneous Quantification of Aromatase Inhibitors and Estrogens in Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Patients
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2021, dgab923. 10.1210/clinem/dgab923
Context Currently there are no assays that can simultaneously quantify serum levels of the third-generation aromatase inhibitors (AIs): letrozole, anastrozole, and exemestane, and the ultra-low levels of estrogens in postmenopausal breast cancer patients on AI treatment. Such measurements may be pivotal for the determination of optimal and individualized treatment regimens. We aimed at developing a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) method for simultaneous assessment of letrozole, anastrozole, exemestane, and 17-hydroxyexemestane as well as subpicomolar levels of estradiol and estrone. Methods Internal standards, calibrators, serum samples, and quality controls were in fully automated steps transferred to a deep-well plate for a 2-step liquid-liquid extraction. The extracts were reconstituted and analytes were separated chromatographically using 2 serially coupled columns, then subject to MS/MS in electrospray ionization mode. The method was thoroughly validated and is traceable to 2 accredited estrogen methods. Results The measurement range for estrone and estradiol was 0.2 to 12 000 pmol/L and 0.8 to 13 000 pmol/L, and covered the expected therapeutic range for the AIs. All analytes had a precision of less than or equal to 13%, and accuracies within 100 ± 8%. As proof of concept, AI and estrogen levels were determined in serum samples from postmenopausal breast cancer patients under treatment. Conclusion We present here an assay suitable for the simultaneous measurement of serum levels of all third-generation AIs and ultra-low levels of estrogens, providing a powerful new tool to study drug efficacy and compliance. The method is highly valuable for postmenopausal patients whose pretreatment estradiol levels are below the threshold of detection for most routine assays, but still require suppression.