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BACKGROUND: We wanted to determine whether neoadjuvant systemic chemoendocrine therapy guided by the estrogen receptor (ER) status of the primary breast cancer, followed by conventional surgery and/or radiotherapy, reduces local and distant recurrence and improves survival compared with adjuvant treatment given conventionally postoperatively. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Two hundred ten patients with primary breast cancer (T1-T4, N0, N1-2) were randomised to receive treatment with neoadjuvant chemoendocrine therapy or conventional post-operative chemoendocrine therapy. Systemic therapy was based on the estrogen receptor (ER) status of the primary tumour obtained by trucut core biopsy. ER-negative patients received MMM chemotherapy (methotrexate (30 mg/m2), mitozantrone (7 mg/m2) and mitomycin (7 mg/m2) three-weekly for three months and ER-positive patients who were premenopausal received goserelin (3.75 mg monthly), and post menopausal women formestane (250 mg every two weeks) over three months. RESULTS: With a minimum of five years follow-up, there is no evidence of any survival benefit from the pretreatment neoadjuvant therapy regimen, with five year overall survival being 79% +/- 4.7% (neoadjuvant) and 87% +/- 3.4% (adjuvant). Similarly, there was no apparent benefit in terms of disease-free survival. There was, however, a significant reduction in the incidence of distant metastases in responders (4 of 51; 8%) compared with non-responders (17 of 49; 35%) (P < 0.01). There was a reduction in the need for surgery in responding patients with T1 and T2 tumours, since 10 of 74 (14%) had no detectable residual tumour, without any apparent increase in the risk of local or distant recurrence. CONCLUSION: In this study neoadjuvant treatment with endocrine or chemotherapy provided no obvious survival benefit to women with breast cancer. However, it does allow avoidance of surgery in some cases. Also, the patients whose tumours respond to neoadjuvant systemic therapy have a lower incidence of distant metastases after five year follow-up compared to those whose tumours fail to respond.


Journal article


Ann Oncol

Publication Date





685 - 691


Adult, Aged, Androstenedione, Antineoplastic Agents, Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Breast Neoplasms, Female, Goserelin, Humans, Methotrexate, Middle Aged, Mitomycin, Mitoxantrone, Neoadjuvant Therapy, Neoplasm Metastasis, Postmenopause, Premenopause, Prognosis, Receptors, Estrogen, Survival Analysis