Tamoxifen for the treatment of polycystic liver disease: A case report

Sophie E Aapkes, Lucas H P Bernts, M van den Berg, Ron T Gansevoort, Joost P H Drenth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


RATIONALE: Polycystic liver disease is a rare disease characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the liver. The liver function remains well preserved, but liver volumes can grow very large, and some patients ultimately need a liver transplantation. Other treatment options are limited and there is an unmet need for new therapeutic options.

PATIENT CONCERNS: We describe a 59-year-old patient with pain in the abdomen, especially when bending forward. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and as an incidental finding a couple of large liver cysts were diagnosed, explaining her abdominal pain.

DIAGNOSIS: Polycystic liver disease with several large liver cysts.

INTERVENTIONS: The patient was treated with tamoxifen, an estrogen receptor modulator, as treatment for her hormone receptor positive breast cancer. One of the liver cysts was aspirated.

OUTCOMES: In the 4.6 years after the start of tamoxifen treatment, 20 mg once daily, the volume of her liver cysts decreased remarkably. There was a reduction of combined cyst volume from 311 mL to 22 mL without percutaneous drainage.

LESSONS: Epidemiological as well as experimental evidence supports a pivotal role for estrogens as a driver for growth of polycystic livers. Estrogen antagonism has often been proposed as a therapeutic target, but supporting evidence is lacking in the literature. We hypothesize that the decrease in cyst size in this patient was caused by tamoxifen therapy, suggesting an in vivo antagonistic effect on cystic cholangiocytes. This is an important finding because tamoxifen could be a promising new treatment option for polycystic liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26797
Number of pages4
Issue number32
Publication statusPublished - 13-Aug-2021


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal/therapeutic use
  • Cysts/diagnosis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases/diagnosis
  • Middle Aged
  • Tamoxifen/therapeutic use
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed

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