Adjuvant endocrine therapy in postmenopausal women with early breast cancer: where are we now?

M Baum
European Journal of Cancer 2005, 41 (12): 1667-77
Tamoxifen has been the standard of care for adjuvant endocrine therapy of early breast cancer. In postmenopausal women, data now suggest that alternative agents (aromatase inhibitors [AIs]) may have improved long-term risk:benefit profiles and thus have the potential to improve outcome. The 'Arimidex', Tamoxifen, alone or in combination (ATAC) trial has shown that anastrozole provides improved disease-free survival (DFS) and time to recurrence, significantly reduced time to distant metastases and superior overall tolerability compared with tamoxifen when used as initial adjuvant therapy. Results have already led to a reconsideration of current recommendations for adjuvant therapy. Other ongoing trials include studies that are evaluating the benefits of sequencing of endocrine agents both within the standard 5-year adjuvant treatment period and as additional therapy in the post-adjuvant period. Three recently reported trials have suggested that switching from tamoxifen to an AI after 2-3 years of treatment leads to better outcomes than 5 years of tamoxifen. Finally, the NCIC MA 17 trial has shown that switching to an AI after 5 years of tamoxifen improves DFS compared with placebo. These are momentous discoveries that have improved our biological understanding and will inevitably change the management of breast cancer in the near future.

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