The Breast International Group 1-98 trial: big results for women with hormone-sensitive early breast cancer

Alain M Monnier
Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy 2007, 7 (5): 627-34
As there is a risk for relapse in early breast cancer, especially at 1-3 years post surgery, the need for adjuvant therapy is clear. In terms of disease-free survival, aromatase inhibitors have emerged as superior to tamoxifen for the adjuvant treatment of hormone-sensitive breast cancer in several Phase III clinical trials. Of these trials, the Breast International Group (BIG) 1-98 trial stands out as unique in design, as it is the only trial to address whether an aromatase inhibitor is more effective as initial adjuvant therapy or as sequential therapy with an aromatase inhibitor and tamoxifen in either order and in rigor of end points and safety evaluations. When compared with tamoxifen, letrozole has been shown to significantly reduce recurrence risk in the overall population by 19% and also significantly reduced recurrence risk in the patient subgroups at increased risk: node-positive and previously chemotherapy-treated patients. Letrozole is the only aromatase inhibitor to demonstrate a significant 27% reduction in the risk of distant metastases (p = 0.001) in the clinically relevant, hormone receptor-positive population in the initial adjuvant setting. Recent results also suggest that letrozole in particular reduces the risk of distant metastases early on after initial surgery for breast cancer. This is important, as early distant metastatic events compose the majority of early recurrences and are a well-recognized predictor of breast cancer death. Letrozole has been found to be well tolerated in the initial adjuvant treatment setting, and these data have been confirmed by long-term safety data from the monotherapy analysis in the BIG 1-98 study. Thus far, the results from the BIG 1-98 trial provide clear support for the use of letrozole in the initial adjuvant treatment of breast cancer. Future studies will provide the definitive answer to questions of which initial adjuvant therapy is superior (i.e., anastrozole or letrozole) and information as to the optimal treatment strategy (i.e., initial adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy or sequential adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy).

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