Adjuvant endocrine therapy for postmenopausal women with early breast cancer

James N Ingle
Clinical Cancer Research 2006 February 1, 12 (3): 1031s-1036s
Results from multiple clinical trials involving aromatase inhibitors have added to the knowledge base relating to endocrine therapy of postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer. In the extended adjuvant setting, data from the Austrian Breast and Colorectal Cancer Study Group 6a trial showed an advantage for anastrozole following 5 years of tamoxifen treatment, consistent with the more robust MA.17 trial that examined letrozole versus placebo following 5 years of tamoxifen treatment. The combined analysis of the Austrian Breast and Colorectal Cancer Study Group 8 trial and the German Arimidex Nolvadex 95 trial, plus the Italian Tamoxifen Anastrozole trial, have shown the advantage of switching to anastrozole over continuing the tamoxifen to complete the full 5 years of adjuvant therapy. These trials support the previously reported larger and double-blind Intergroup Exemestane Study. The Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination trial now has data out to 68 months of median follow-up showing the maintenance of a significant advantage of anastrozole over tamoxifen for disease-free survival. In this initial treatment setting, the Breast International Group 1-98 trial recently showed a significant advantage for letrozole over tamoxifen. The current debate is centered on whether the optimal strategy is to give an aromatase inhibitor initially or after several years of tamoxifen treatment. Multiple important questions remain, including the predictive value of molecular markers such as progesterone receptor, the optimal duration of aromatase inhibitor therapy, the long-term adverse effects, and the relative efficacy and toxicity of the different aromatase inhibitors.

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