Pharmacology: Mechanism of Action: Letrozole is a nonsteroidal competitive inhibitor of the aromatase enzyme system; it inhibits the conversion of androgens to estrogens. In adult nontumor- and tumor bearing female animals, letrozole is as effective as ovariectomy in reducing uterine weight, elevating serum Luteinizing hormone (LH), and causing the regression of estrogen-dependent tumors. In contrast to ovariectomy, treatment with letrozole does not lead to an increase in serum (follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Letrozole selectively inhibits gonadal steroidogenesis but has no significant effect on adrenal mineralocorticoid or glucocorticoid synthesis.
Pharmacokinetics: Letrozole is rapidly and completely absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and absorption is not affected by food. It is metabolized slowly to an inactive metabolite whose glucuronide conjugate is excreted renally, representing the major clearance pathway. About 90% of radiolabeled letrozole is recovered in urine. Letrozole's terminal elimination half-life is about 2 days and steady-state plasma concentration after daily 2.5 mg dosing is reached in 2- 6 weeks. Plasma concentrations at steady-state are 1.5 to 2 times higher than predicted from the concentrations measured after a single dose, indicating a slight non-linearity in the pharmacokinetics of letrozole upon daily administration of 2.5 mg. These steady-state levels are maintained over extended periods, however, and continuous accumulation of letrozole does not occur. Letrozole is weakly protein bound and has a large volume of distribution (approximately 1.9 L/kg).
Metabolism and Excretion: Metabolism to a pharmacologically-inactive carbinol metabolite (4,4'-methanol bisbenzonitrile) and renal excretion of the glucuronide conjugate of this metabolite is the major pathway of Letrozole clearance. Of the radiolabel recovered in urine, at least 75% was the glucuronide of the carbinol metabolite, about 9% was two unidentified metabolites, and 6% was unchanged letrozole.
In human microsomes with specific CYP isozyme activity, CYP 3A4 metabolized Letrozole to the carbinol metabolite while CYP 2A6 formed both this metabolite and its ketone analog. In human liver microsomes, letrozole strongly inhibited CYP 2A6 and moderately inhibited CYP 2C19.