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      Comparisons between different polychemotherapy regimens for early breast cancer: meta-analyses of long-term outcome among 100 000 women in 123 randomised trials

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      Lancet

      Lancet Publishing Group

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          Summary

          Background

          Moderate differences in efficacy between adjuvant chemotherapy regimens for breast cancer are plausible, and could affect treatment choices. We sought any such differences.

          Methods

          We undertook individual-patient-data meta-analyses of the randomised trials comparing: any taxane-plus-anthracycline-based regimen versus the same, or more, non-taxane chemotherapy (n=44 000); one anthracycline-based regimen versus another (n=7000) or versus cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil (CMF; n=18 000); and polychemotherapy versus no chemotherapy (n=32 000). The scheduled dosages of these three drugs and of the anthracyclines doxorubicin (A) and epirubicin (E) were used to define standard CMF, standard 4AC, and CAF and CEF. Log-rank breast cancer mortality rate ratios (RRs) are reported.

          Findings

          In trials adding four separate cycles of a taxane to a fixed anthracycline-based control regimen, extending treatment duration, breast cancer mortality was reduced (RR 0·86, SE 0·04, two-sided significance [2p]=0·0005). In trials with four such extra cycles of a taxane counterbalanced in controls by extra cycles of other cytotoxic drugs, roughly doubling non-taxane dosage, there was no significant difference (RR 0·94, SE 0·06, 2p=0·33). Trials with CMF-treated controls showed that standard 4AC and standard CMF were equivalent (RR 0·98, SE 0·05, 2p=0·67), but that anthracycline-based regimens with substantially higher cumulative dosage than standard 4AC (eg, CAF or CEF) were superior to standard CMF (RR 0·78, SE 0·06, 2p=0·0004). Trials versus no chemotherapy also suggested greater mortality reductions with CAF (RR 0·64, SE 0·09, 2p<0·0001) than with standard 4AC (RR 0·78, SE 0·09, 2p=0·01) or standard CMF (RR 0·76, SE 0·05, 2p<0·0001). In all meta-analyses involving taxane-based or anthracycline-based regimens, proportional risk reductions were little affected by age, nodal status, tumour diameter or differentiation (moderate or poor; few were well differentiated), oestrogen receptor status, or tamoxifen use. Hence, largely independently of age (up to at least 70 years) or the tumour characteristics currently available to us for the patients selected to be in these trials, some taxane-plus-anthracycline-based or higher-cumulative-dosage anthracycline-based regimens (not requiring stem cells) reduced breast cancer mortality by, on average, about one-third. 10-year overall mortality differences paralleled breast cancer mortality differences, despite taxane, anthracycline, and other toxicities.

          Interpretation

          10-year gains from a one-third breast cancer mortality reduction depend on absolute risks without chemotherapy (which, for oestrogen-receptor-positive disease, are the risks remaining with appropriate endocrine therapy). Low absolute risk implies low absolute benefit, but information was lacking about tumour gene expression markers or quantitative immunohistochemistry that might help to predict risk, chemosensitivity, or both.

          Funding

          Cancer Research UK; British Heart Foundation; UK Medical Research Council.

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          Most cited references 32

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          Gene expression and benefit of chemotherapy in women with node-negative, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

          The 21-gene recurrence score (RS) assay quantifies the likelihood of distant recurrence in women with estrogen receptor-positive, lymph node-negative breast cancer treated with adjuvant tamoxifen. The relationship between the RS and chemotherapy benefit is not known. The RS was measured in tumors from the tamoxifen-treated and tamoxifen plus chemotherapy-treated patients in the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B20 trial. Cox proportional hazards models were utilized to test for interaction between chemotherapy treatment and the RS. A total of 651 patients were assessable (227 randomly assigned to tamoxifen and 424 randomly assigned to tamoxifen plus chemotherapy). The test for interaction between chemotherapy treatment and RS was statistically significant (P = .038). Patients with high-RS (> or = 31) tumors (ie, high risk of recurrence) had a large benefit from chemotherapy (relative risk, 0.26; 95% CI, 0.13 to 0.53; absolute decrease in 10-year distant recurrence rate: mean, 27.6%; SE, 8.0%). Patients with low-RS (< 18) tumors derived minimal, if any, benefit from chemotherapy treatment (relative risk, 1.31; 95% CI, 0.46 to 3.78; absolute decrease in distant recurrence rate at 10 years: mean, -1.1%; SE, 2.2%). Patients with intermediate-RS tumors did not appear to have a large benefit, but the uncertainty in the estimate can not exclude a clinically important benefit. The RS assay not only quantifies the likelihood of breast cancer recurrence in women with node-negative, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, but also predicts the magnitude of chemotherapy benefit.
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            Gene-expression signatures in breast cancer.

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              Prognostic and predictive value of the 21-gene recurrence score assay in postmenopausal women with node-positive, oestrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer on chemotherapy: a retrospective analysis of a randomised trial.

              The 21-gene recurrence score assay is prognostic for women with node-negative, oestrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer treated with tamoxifen. A low recurrence score predicts little benefit of chemotherapy. For node-positive breast cancer, we investigated whether the recurrence score was prognostic in women treated with tamoxifen alone and whether it identified those who might not benefit from anthracycline-based chemotherapy, despite higher risks of recurrence. The phase 3 trial SWOG-8814 for postmenopausal women with node-positive, oestrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer showed that chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and fluorouracil (CAF) before tamoxifen (CAF-T) added survival benefit to treatment with tamoxifen alone. Optional tumour banking yielded specimens for determination of recurrence score by RT-PCR. In this retrospective analysis, we assessed the effect of recurrence score on disease-free survival by treatment group (tamoxifen vs CAF-T) using Cox regression, adjusting for number of positive nodes. There were 367 specimens (40% of the 927 patients in the tamoxifen and CAF-T groups) with sufficient RNA for analysis (tamoxifen, n=148; CAF-T, n=219). The recurrence score was prognostic in the tamoxifen-alone group (p=0.006; hazard ratio [HR] 2.64, 95% CI 1.33-5.27, for a 50-point difference in recurrence score). There was no benefit of CAF in patients with a low recurrence score (score or =31; log-rank p=0.033; HR 0.59, 0.35-1.01), after adjustment for number of positive nodes. The recurrence score by treatment interaction was significant in the first 5 years (p=0.029), with no additional prediction beyond 5 years (p=0.58), although the cumulative benefit remained at 10 years. Results were similar for overall survival and breast-cancer-specific survival. The recurrence score is prognostic for tamoxifen-treated patients with positive nodes and predicts significant benefit of CAF in tumours with a high recurrence score. A low recurrence score identifies women who might not benefit from anthracycline-based chemotherapy, despite positive nodes. National Cancer Institute and Genomic Health. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Lancet
                Lancet
                Lancet
                Lancet Publishing Group
                0140-6736
                1474-547X
                04 February 2012
                04 February 2012
                : 379
                : 9814
                : 130-135
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group (EBCTCG) Secretariat, Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU), Richard Doll Building, Old Road Campus, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK bc.overview@ 123456CTSU.ox.ac.uk
                Article
                LANCET61625
                10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61625-5
                3273723
                © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                This document may be redistributed and reused, subject to certain conditions.

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                Medicine

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