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Breast Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage I, II, IIIA, and Operable IIIC Breast Cancer


Controlled studies have associated long-term tamoxifen use with preservation of bone mineral density of the lumbar spine in postmenopausal women.[123,124,125] In premenopausal women, decreased bone mineral density is a possibility.[126]

Ovarian ablation, tamoxifen, and chemotherapy

The EBCTCG meta-analysis included almost 8,000 premenopausal women who were randomly assigned to undergo ovarian ablation with surgery or radiation therapy (4,317) or ovarian suppression with luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists (3,408). Overall, ovarian ablation or suppression reduced the absolute risk of recurrence at 15 years by 4.3% (P < .001) and the risk of death from breast cancer by 3.2% (P = .004).[85] No evidence showed that the relative benefit of suppression differed from that of ablation, but the benefit of either was less in patients who received chemotherapy.[127][Level of evidence: 1iiA]

A single study of more than 300 patients that compared cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, 5-FU, and prednisone (CMFP) with the same chemotherapy regimen plus surgical oophorectomy showed no additional survival benefit from oophorectomy.[128][Level of evidence: 1iiA] Three trials (including the International Breast Cancer Study Group's trial [IBCSG-VIII] and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group's trial [EST-5188]) involving more than 3,000 patients assessed the impact on DFS and OS from the use of an LHRH analogue (in one trial, 50% of the patients had radiation oophorectomy rather than an LHRH analogue) in addition to chemotherapy.[127,129,130][Level of evidence: 1iiA] None of the trials identified a statistically significant benefit in OS or DFS from ovarian suppression.

As an adjuvant strategy, ovarian ablation has also been compared with chemotherapy in premenopausal women. In a direct comparison of surgical or radiation ablation and CMF, DFS and OS rates were identical in 332 premenopausal women with stage II disease.[131][Level of evidence: 1iiA] A trial of 599 premenopausal node-positive patients found leuprorelin acetate to be similar to CMF with respect to DFS and OS.[132] A Danish trial compared ovarian ablation or suppression to CMF (9 cycles intravenously every 3 weeks) in premenopausal, ER-positive women and found no difference in OS or DFS in the two study groups.[133,134] The study did not have tamoxifen as an adjuvant arm and also did not use taxanes or anthracyclines. Results may have been different with these two contemporary modifications to the study. A trial of CMF versus tamoxifen plus ovarian ablation (e.g., by surgery, radiation therapy, or gonadotropin-releasing hormone [GnRH]) in premenopausal or perimenopausal women with receptor-positive tumors has been reported.[135][Level of evidence: 1iiA] In this small trial, which did not meet its target accrual, the combination of tamoxifen and ovarian ablation provided comparable DFS and OS rates. In three larger trials in which medical ovarian ablation with goserelin was used, the impact of goserelin alone on DFS was found to be comparable to CMF in the subgroup of ER+ patients,[127,136][Level of evidence: 2Dii] whereas the combination of goserelin and tamoxifen was associated with prolonged DFS compared with CMF alone.[137][Level of evidence: 1iiDii] Whether tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors add to ovarian ablation, and the elucidation of the optimal roles for endocrine manipulation and chemotherapy in receptor-positive premenopausal women, require further evaluation.[138] These issues are the subject of several trials.

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