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1.  Breast cancer (non-metastatic) 
Clinical Evidence  2011;2011:0102.
Introduction
Breast cancer affects at least 1 in 10 women in the UK, but most present with primary operable disease, which has an 80% 5-year survival rate overall.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of interventions after breast-conserving surgery for ductal carcinoma in situ? What are the effects of treatments for primary operable breast cancer? What are the effects of interventions in locally advanced breast cancer (stage 3B)? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to April 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 83 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: adding chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide/methotrexate/fluorouracil and/or anthracycline and/or taxane-based regimens), or hormonal treatment to radiotherapy; adjuvant treatments (aromatase inhibitors, adjuvant anthracycline regimens, tamoxifen); axillary clearance; axillary dissection plus sentinel node dissection; axillary radiotherapy; axillary sampling; combined chemotherapy plus tamoxifen; chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibody (trastuzumab); extensive surgery; high-dose chemotherapy; hormonal treatment; less extensive mastectomy; less than whole-breast radiotherapy plus breast-conserving surgery; multimodal treatment; ovarian ablation; primary chemotherapy; prolonged adjuvant combination chemotherapy; radiotherapy (after breast-conserving surgery, after mastectomy, plus tamoxifen after breast-conserving surgery, to the internal mammary chain, and to the ipsilateral supraclavicular fossa, and total nodal radiotherapy); sentinel node biopsy; and standard chemotherapy regimens.
Key Points
Breast cancer affects at least 1 in 10 women in the UK, but most present with primary operable disease, which has an 80% 5-year survival rate overall.
In women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), radiotherapy reduces local recurrence and invasive carcinoma after breast-conserving surgery. The role of tamoxifen added to radiotherapy for DCIS remains unclear because of conflicting results.
In women with primary operable breast cancer, survival may be increased by full surgical excision, tamoxifen, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, ovarian ablation, or trastuzumab (in women who over-express HER2/neu oncogene). Incomplete excision may increase the risk of local recurrence, but less-extensive mastectomy that excises all local disease is as effective as radical mastectomy at prolonging survival, with better cosmetic results. Axillary clearance (removal of all axillary lymph nodes) achieves local disease control, but has not been shown to increase survival, and can cause arm lymphoedema. Sentinel lymph node biopsy or 4-node sampling may adequately stage the axilla with less morbidity compared with axillary clearance. Adjuvant tamoxifen reduces the risk of recurrence and death in women with oestrogen-positive tumours. Primary chemotherapy may facilitate successful breast-conserving surgery instead of mastectomy. Adjuvant combination chemotherapy improves survival compared with no chemotherapy, with greatest benefit likely with anthracycline-based regimens at standard doses for 4 to 6 months.Radiotherapy decreases recurrence and mortality after breast-conserving surgery. Post-mastectomy radiotherapy for women who are node-positive or at high risk of recurrence decreases recurrence and mortality. Adjuvant aromatase inhibitors improve disease-free survival compared with tamoxifen, but their effect on overall survival is unclear. Adjuvant taxane-based regimens may improve disease-free survival over standard anthracycline-based therapy.
In women with locally advanced breast cancer, radiotherapy may be as effective as surgery or tamoxifen at increasing survival and local disease control. Adding tamoxifen or ovarian ablation to radiotherapy increases survival compared with radiotherapy alone, but adding chemotherapy may not reduce recurrence or mortality compared with radiotherapy alone.We don't know if chemotherapy alone improves survival in women with locally advanced breast cancer as we found few trials.
PMCID: PMC3217212  PMID: 21718560
2.  Breast cancer (non-metastatic) 
Clinical Evidence  2007;2007:0102.
Introduction
Breast cancer affects at least 1 in 10 women in the UK, but most present with primary operable disease, which has an 80% 5-year survival rate overall.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of interventions after breast-conserving surgery for ductal carcinoma in situ? What are the effects of treatments for primary operable breast cancer? What are the effects of interventions in locally advanced breast cancer (stage IIIB)? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library and other important databases up to February 2006 (BMJ Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 79 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: adding chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide/methotrexate/ fluorouracil and/or anthracycline and/or taxane-based regimens), or hormonal treatment to radiotherapy; adjuvant treatments (aromatase inhibitors, adjuvant anthracycline regimens, tamoxifen); axillary clearance; axillary dissection plus sentinel node dissection; axillary radiotherapy; axillary sampling; combined chemotherapy plus tamoxifen; chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibody (trastuzumab); extensive surgery; high-dose chemotherapy; hormonal treatment; less extensive mastectomy; less than whole breast radiotherapy plus breast conserving surgery; multimodal treatment; ovarian ablation; primary chemotherapy; prolonged adjuvant combination chemotherapy; radiotherapy (after breast-conserving surgery, after mastectomy, plus tamoxifen after breast-conserving surgery, to the internal mammary chain, and to the ipsilateral supraclavicular fossa, and total nodal radiotherapy); sentinel node biopsy; and standard chemotherapy regimens.
Key Points
Breast cancer affects at least 1 in 10 women in the UK, but most present with primary operable disease, which has an 80% 5-year survival rate overall.
In women with ductal carcinoma in situ, radiotherapy reduces local recurrence and invasive carcinoma after breast-conserving surgery, but may not improve survival.
In women with primary operable breast cancer, survival may be increased by full surgical excision, tamoxifen, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, ovarian ablation or trastuzumab (in women who overexpress HER2/neu oncogene). Incomplete excision may increase the risk of local recurrence, but less-extensive mastectomy that excises all local disease is as effective as radical mastectomy at prolonging survival, with better cosmetic results. Axillary clearance (removal of all axillary lymph nodes) achieves local disease control, but has not been shown to increase survival, and can cause arm lymphoedema. Sentinel lymph node biopsy or 4-node sampling may adequately stage the axilla with less morbidity compared with axillary clearance. Adjuvant tamoxifen reduces the risk of recurrence and death in women with oestrogen-positive tumours, but adverse effects begin to outweigh benefit after 5 years of treatment. Primary chemotherapy may facilitate successful breast-conserving surgery instead of mastectomy. Adjuvant combination chemotherapy improves survival compared with no chemotherapy, with greatest benefit likely with anthracycline-based regimens at standard doses for 4-6 months.Radiotherapy decreases recurrence and mortality after breast-conserving surgery. Post-mastectomy radiotherapy for women who are node-positive or at high risk of recurrence decreases recurrence and mortality, but may increase mortality in node-negative women. Adjuvant aromatase inhibitors improve disease-free survival compared with tamoxifen, but their effect on overall survival is unclear.Adjuvant taxoid regimens may improve disease-free survival over standard anthracycline-based therapy.
In women with locally advanced breast cancer, radiotherapy may be as effective as surgery or tamoxifen at increasing survival and local disease control. Adding tamoxifen or ovarian ablation to radiotherapy increases survival compared with radiotherapy alone, but adding chemotherapy may not reduce recurrence or mortality compared with radiotherapy alone.Chemotherapy alone, while widely used, does not improve survival in women with locally advanced breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2943780  PMID: 19450345
3.  Analysis of Gene Expression Using Gene Sets Discriminates Cancer Patients with and without Late Radiation Toxicity 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e422.
Background
Radiation is an effective anti-cancer therapy but leads to severe late radiation toxicity in 5%–10% of patients. Assuming that genetic susceptibility impacts this risk, we hypothesized that the cellular response of normal tissue to X-rays could discriminate patients with and without late radiation toxicity.
Methods and Findings
Prostate carcinoma patients without evidence of cancer 2 y after curative radiotherapy were recruited in the study. Blood samples of 21 patients with severe late complications from radiation and 17 patients without symptoms were collected. Stimulated peripheral lymphocytes were mock-irradiated or irradiated with 2-Gy X-rays. The 24-h radiation response was analyzed by gene expression profiling and used for classification. Classification was performed either on the expression of separate genes or, to augment the classification power, on gene sets consisting of genes grouped together based on function or cellular colocalization.
X-ray irradiation altered the expression of radio-responsive genes in both groups. This response was variable across individuals, and the expression of the most significant radio-responsive genes was unlinked to radiation toxicity. The classifier based on the radiation response of separate genes correctly classified 63% of the patients. The classifier based on affected gene sets improved correct classification to 86%, although on the individual level only 21/38 (55%) patients were classified with high certainty. The majority of the discriminative genes and gene sets belonged to the ubiquitin, apoptosis, and stress signaling networks. The apoptotic response appeared more pronounced in patients that did not develop toxicity. In an independent set of 12 patients, the toxicity status of eight was predicted correctly by the gene set classifier.
Conclusions
Gene expression profiling succeeded to some extent in discriminating groups of patients with and without severe late radiotherapy toxicity. Moreover, the discriminative power was enhanced by assessment of functionally or structurally related gene sets. While prediction of individual response requires improvement, this study is a step forward in predicting susceptibility to late radiation toxicity.
Expression profiling can discriminate between groups of patients with and without severe late radiotherapy toxicity but not (yet) predict individual responses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More than half the people who develop cancer receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment. That is, tumor cells are destroyed by exposing them to a source of ionizing radiation such as X-rays. Ionizing radiation damages the genetic material of cancer cells so that they can no longer divide. Unfortunately, it also damages nearby normal cells, although they are less sensitive to radiation than the cancer cells. Radiotherapists minimize how much radiation hits normal tissues by carefully aiming the X-rays at the tumor. Even so, patients often develop side effects such as sore skin or digestive problems during or soon after radiotherapy; the exact nature of the side effects depends on the part of the body exposed to the X-rays. In addition, a few patients develop severe late radiation toxicity, months or years after their treatment. Like early toxicity, late toxicity occurs in the normal tissues near the tumor site. For example, in prostate cancer—a tumor that forms in a gland in the male reproductive system that lies between the bladder and the end of the gut (the rectum)—late radiation toxicity affects rectal, bladder, and sexual function in 5%–10% of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is not known why some patients develop late radiation toxicity, and it is impossible to predict before treatment which patients will have long-term health problems after radiotherapy. It would be useful to know this, because radiation levels might be reduced in those patients, while larger doses of radiation could be given to patients at low risk of late complications to ensure a complete eradication of their cancer. One theory is that some patients are genetically predisposed to develop severe late radiation toxicity. In other words, their genetic make-up makes it more likely that their tissues develop long-term complications after radiation damage. In this study, the researchers looked for markers of a genetic predisposition for late radiation toxicity by comparing radiation-induced changes in the pattern of cellular proteins in patients who had late radiation toxicity after radiotherapy with the changes seen in patients who did not develop such complications.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 38 patients who had been treated successfully with radiotherapy for prostate cancer two years previously. Of these, 21 had developed severe late radiation toxicity. They isolated lymphocytes (a type of immune system cell) from the patients' blood, stimulated the lymphocytes to divide, exposed them to X-rays, and analyzed the pattern of genes active in these cells—their gene expression profile—before and after irradiation. The researchers found that irradiation induced the expression of numerous genes in the lymphocytes, including many well-known radiation-responsive genes. They then used an analytical process called “random cross-validation” to look for a gene expression profile (or molecular signature) that was associated with late radiation toxicity. They report that a signature based on the radiation response of 50 individual genes correctly classified 63% of the patient population in terms of whether the patient had developed late radiation toxicity. A signature based on the radiation response of gene sets containing genes linked by function or cellular localization correctly classified 86% of the patient population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Gene expression profiling identified groups of patients who had had severe late radiation toxicity pretty well, particularly when sets of related genes were used to classify the patients. The approach was not so good, however, at identifying individual patients who had had problems, being correct and certain only half the time. Additional studies are needed, therefore, before this promising approach can be used clinically to predict patient responses to radiotherapy. Overall, the study supports the idea that some patients are genetically predisposed to develop late radiation toxicity, and it also provides clues about which cellular pathways help to determine late radiation toxicity. Most of the genes and gene sets that discriminated between the patients with and without late radiation toxicity are involved in protein metabolism, apoptosis (a special sort of cell death), and stress signaling networks (pathways that protect cells from damage). This information, if confirmed, might help researchers to develop therapeutic interventions to minimize late radiation toxicity in vulnerable individuals.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030422.
US National Cancer Institute patient information on radiotherapy and on prostate cancer
American Cancer Society information on radiation therapy
Cancer Research UK patient information on radiotherapy
Wikipedia pages on radiotherapy (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030422
PMCID: PMC1626552  PMID: 17076557
4.  Clinical practice guidelines for the care and treatment of breast cancer: 16. Locoregional post-mastectomy radiotherapy 
Objective
To provide information and recommendations to assist women with breast cancer and their physicians in making decisions regarding the use of locoregional post-mastectomy radiotherapy (PMRT).
Outcomes
Locoregional control, disease-free survival, overall survival and treatment-related toxicities.
Evidence
This guideline is based on a review of all meta-analyses, consensus statements and other guidelines published between 1966 and November 2002. Searches of MEDLINE and CANCERLIT for English-language randomized controlled trials published between 1995 and November 2002 were also conducted to supplement the literature previously reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Health Services Research Committee panel in its published guideline. A nonsystematic review of the literature was continued through June 2003.
RecommendationsLocoregional PMRT is recommended for women with an advanced primary tumour (tumour size 5 cm or greater, or tumour invasion of the skin, pectoral muscle or chest wall).Locoregional PMRT is recommended for women with 4 or more positive axillary lymph nodes.The role of PMRT in women with 1 to 3 positive axillary lymph nodes is unclear. These women should be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of PMRT.Locoregional PMRT is generally not recommended for women who have tumours that are less than 5 cm in diameter and who have negative axillary nodes.Other patient, tumour and treatment characteristics, including age, histologic grade, lymphovascular invasion, hormone receptor status, number of axillary nodes removed, axillary extracapsular extension and surgical margin status, may affect locoregional control, but their use in specifying additional indications for PMRT is currently unclear.PMRT should encompass the chest wall and the supraclavicular, infraclavicular and axillary apical lymph node areas.To reduce the risk of lymphedema, radiation of the entire axilla should not be used routinely after complete axillary dissection of level I and II lymph nodes.A definite recommendation regarding the inclusion of the internal mammary lymph nodes in PMRT cannot be made because of limited and inconsistent data.The use of modern techniques in radiotherapy planning is recommended to minimize excessive normal tissue exposure, particularly to the cardiac and pulmonary structures.Common short-term side effects of PMRT, including fatigue and skin erythema, are generally tolerable and not dose-limiting. Severe long-term side effects, including lymphedema, cardiac and pulmonary toxicities, brachial plexopathy, rib fractures and secondary neoplasms, are relatively rare.The optimal sequencing of PMRT and systemic therapy is currently unclear. Regimens containing anthracyclines or taxanes should not be administered concurrently with radiotherapy because of the potential for increased toxicity.
Validation
The authors' original text was submitted for review, revision and approval by the Steering Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Subsequently, feedback was provided by 11 oncologists from across Canada. The final document was approved by the steering committee.
Sponsor
The Steering Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care and Treatment of Breast Cancer was convened by Health Canada.
Completion date
November 2003.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.1031000
PMCID: PMC385392  PMID: 15078851
5.  Surgical management of early stage invasive breast cancer: a practice guideline 
Canadian Journal of Surgery  2005;48(3):185-194.
Objectives
To assess the available evidence on sentinel lymph-node biopsy, and to examine the long-term follow-up data from large randomized phase III trials comparing breast-conserving therapy with mastectomy in order to make recommendations on the surgical management of early invasive breast cancer (stages I and II), including the optimum management of the axillary nodes: for the breast — modified radical mastectomy or breast-conserving therapy; for the axilla — complete axillary node dissection, axillary dissection of levels I and II lymph nodes, sentinel lymph-node biopsy or no axillary node surgery.
Outcomes
Overall survival, disease-free survival, local recurrence, distant recurrence and quality of life.
Evidence
MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library databases and relevant conference proceedings were searched to identify randomized trials and meta-analyses. Two members of the Practice Guidelines Initiative, Breast Cancer Disease Site Group (BCDSG) selected and reviewed studies that met the inclusion criteria. The systematic literature review was combined with a consensus process for interpretation of the evidence to develop evidence-based recommendations. This practice guideline has been reviewed and approved by the BCDSG, comprising surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, a medical sociologist, a nurse representative and a community representative.
Benefits, harms and costs
Breast-conserving therapy (lumpectomy with levels I and II axillary node dissection, plus radiotherapy) provides comparable overall and disease-free survival to modified radical mastectomy. Levels I and II axillary dissection accurately stages the axilla and minimizes the morbidity of axillary recurrence but is associated with lymphedema in approximately 20% of patients and arm pain in approximately 33%. Currently, there is insufficient data regarding locoregional recurrence and long-term morbidity associated with sentinel-node biopsy to advocate it as the standard of care. Breast-conserving therapy may offer an advantage over mastectomy in terms of body image, psychological and social adjustment but appears equivalent with regard to marital adjustment, global adjustment and fear of recurrence.
Recommendations
Women who are eligible for breast-conserving surgery should be offered the choice of either breast-conserving therapy with axillary dissection or modified radical mastectomy. Removal and pathological examination of levels I and II axillary lymph nodes should be the standard practice in most cases of stages I and II breast carcinoma. There is promising but limited evidence to support recommendations regarding sentinel lymph-node biopsy alone. Patients should be encouraged to participate in clinical trials investigating this procedure.
Validation
A draft version of this practice guideline and a 21-item feedback questionnaire was circulated to 201 practitioners in Ontario. Of the 131 practitioners who returned the questionnaire, 98 (75%) completed the survey and indicated that the report was relevant to their clinical practice. Eighty (82%) of these practitioners agreed that the draft document should be approved as a practice guideline.
Sponsors
The Practice Guidelines Initiative is supported by Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Completion date
Jan. 21, 2003.
PMCID: PMC3211547  PMID: 16013621
6.  Hodgkin's lymphoma 
Clinical Evidence  2009;2009:2404.
Introduction
People with Hodgkin's lymphoma usually present with a lump in the neck or upper chest, but a quarter of people also have fever, sweating, weight loss, fatigue, and itch. Almost all people with localised disease can be cured, and, even among people with relapsed advanced disease, almost 80% survive event free for 4 years or more.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of: single-regimen chemotherapy treatments; combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments compared with radiotherapy alone; and combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments compared with the same chemotherapy agent alone, for first presentation stage I or II non-bulky disease? What are the effects of: specific combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments versus each other; or different radiotherapy treatment strategies in stage I or II non-bulky disease? What are the effects of: single-regimen chemotherapy treatments; dose-intensified chemotherapy treatments; or combined chemotherapy plus radiotherapy treatments compared with chemotherapy alone, for first presentation stage II (bulky) disease, III, or IV disease? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to September 2008 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 40 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: ABVD (with or without radiotherapy); ABVPP plus radiotherapy; ChlVPP-EVA; COPP-ABVD plus radiotherapy; CVPP plus radiotherapy; EBVP plus radiotherapy; escalating-dose BEACOPP; extended-field radiotherapy; increased-dose regimens; involved-field radiotherapy; MOPP (with or without radiotherapy); MOPP-ABV plus radiotherapy; and VBM plus radiotherapy.
Key Points
People with Hodgkin's lymphoma usually present with a lump in the neck or upper chest, but a quarter of people also have fever, sweating, weight loss, fatigue, and itch. Almost all people with localised disease can be cured, and, even among people with relapsed advanced disease, almost 80% of them survive event free for 4 years or more.
In people with localised Hodgkin's lymphoma, consensus is that ABVD plus radiotherapy is the gold standard treatment, with ABVD preferred to MOPP as single-regimen chemotherapy. However, we don't know whether this is the most effective regimen. ABVD seems less likely than MOPP to cause infertility and secondary leukaemia. However, ABVD increases the risk of cardiotoxicity and pulmonary adverse effects, especially if given with radiotherapy.Adding ABVD to radiotherapy seems to reduce the risk of relapse at 7 years compared with radiotherapy alone. However, ABVD plus radiotherapy seems no more effective than ABVD alone at improving overall survival, and is associated with more adverse effects.Adding MOPP or VBM regimens to radiotherapy does not improve overall survival compared with radiotherapy alone in people with localised Hodgkin's lymphoma, and increases the risk of adverse effects.Adding radiotherapy to CVPP does not improve survival compared with chemotherapy alone.We don't know whether adding radiotherapy to MOPP is more effective than chemotherapy alone.Compared with MOPP plus radiotherapy, ABVD plus radiotherapy seems associated with improved progression-free survival and less gonadal toxicity. EBVP plus radiotherapy seems to have similar efficacy to MOPP/ABV plus radiotherapy in increasing overall survival, but seems less effective at improving failure-free survival rates.
In people with localised Hodgkin's lymphoma, involved-field radiotherapy is as effective as extended-field radiotherapy in increasing overall survival, but is less likely to cause adverse effects. We don't know which radiotherapy dose regimen is most likely to improve survival.
In people with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, ABVD is as effective as other chemotherapy regimens, such as MOPP, MOPP/ABV, MEC, and Stanford V, at improving long-term survival, with a more favourable adverse effect profile. Intensified chemotherapy with ChlVPP/EVA may improve 5-year survival compared with VAPEC-B, and escalating-dose BEACOPP may be more effective, but has greater toxicity, than COPP-ABVD.
In people with advanced disease, adding radiotherapy to MOPP or to MOPP/ABV does not improve survival compared with the chemotherapy regimen alone. Adding radiotherapy to ABVPP may worsen survival rates compared with ABVPP alone. Adding radiotherapy to COPP-ABVD does not seem to improve relapse rates compared with the chemotherapy regimen alone.
PMCID: PMC2907766  PMID: 21726488
7.  Receptor-Defined Subtypes of Breast Cancer in Indigenous Populations in Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001720.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Isabel dos Santos Silva and colleagues estimate the prevalence of receptor-defined subtypes of breast cancer in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Breast cancer is the most common female cancer in Africa. Receptor-defined subtypes are a major determinant of treatment options and disease outcomes but there is considerable uncertainty regarding the frequency of poor prognosis estrogen receptor (ER) negative subtypes in Africa. We systematically reviewed publications reporting on the frequency of breast cancer receptor-defined subtypes in indigenous populations in Africa.
Methods and Findings
Medline, Embase, and Global Health were searched for studies published between 1st January 1980 and 15th April 2014. Reported proportions of ER positive (ER+), progesterone receptor positive (PR+), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 positive (HER2+) disease were extracted and 95% CI calculated. Random effects meta-analyses were used to pool estimates. Fifty-four studies from North Africa (n = 12,284 women with breast cancer) and 26 from sub-Saharan Africa (n = 4,737) were eligible. There was marked between-study heterogeneity in the ER+ estimates in both regions (I2>90%), with the majority reporting proportions between 0.40 and 0.80 in North Africa and between 0.20 and 0.70 in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, large between-study heterogeneity was observed for PR+ and HER2+ estimates (I2>80%, in all instances). Meta-regression analyses showed that the proportion of ER+ disease was 10% (4%–17%) lower for studies based on archived tumor blocks rather than prospectively collected specimens, and 9% (2%–17%) lower for those with ≥40% versus those with <40% grade 3 tumors. For prospectively collected samples, the pooled proportions for ER+ and triple negative tumors were 0.59 (0.56–0.62) and 0.21 (0.17–0.25), respectively, regardless of region. Limitations of the study include the lack of standardized procedures across the various studies; the low methodological quality of many studies in terms of the representativeness of their case series and the quality of the procedures for collection, fixation, and receptor testing; and the possibility that women with breast cancer may have contributed to more than one study.
Conclusions
The published data from the more appropriate prospectively measured specimens are consistent with the majority of breast cancers in Africa being ER+. As no single subtype dominates in the continent availability of receptor testing should be a priority, especially for young women with early stage disease where appropriate receptor-specific treatment modalities offer the greatest potential for reducing years of life lost.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Breast cancer is the commonest female tumor in Africa and death rates from the disease in some African countries are among the highest in the world. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. When a breast lump is found (by mammography or manual examination), a few cells are collected from the lump (a biopsy) to look for abnormal cells and to test for the presence of estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) on the cells. The hormones estrogen and progesterone promote the growth of normal breast cells and of ER+ and PR+ breast cancer cells. HER2 also controls the growth of breast cells. The receptor status of breast cancer is a major determinant of treatment options and prognosis (likely outcome). ER+ tumors, for example, are more receptive to hormonal therapy and have a better prognosis than ER− tumors, whereas HER2+ tumors, which make large amounts of HER2, are more aggressive than HER2− tumors. Breast cancer is treated by surgically removing the lump or the whole breast (mastectomy) if the tumor has already spread, before killing any remaining cancer cells with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In addition, ER+, PR+, and HER2+ tumors are treated with drugs that block these receptors (including tamoxifen and trastuzumab), thereby slowing breast cancer growth.
Why Was This Study Done?
ER+ tumors predominate in white women but the proportion of ER+ tumors among US-born black women is slightly lower. The frequency of different receptor-defined subtypes of breast cancer in indigenous populations in Africa is currently unclear but policy makers need this information to help them decide whether routine receptor status testing should be introduced across Africa. Because receptor status is a major determination of treatment options and outcomes, it would be more important to introduce receptor testing if all subtypes are present in breast cancers in indigenous African women and if no one subtype dominates than if most breast cancers in these women are ER+. In this systematic review (a study that uses pre-defined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies), the researchers examine the distribution of receptor-defined breast cancer subtypes in indigenous populations in Africa.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 54 relevant studies from North Africa involving 12,284 women with breast cancer (mainly living in Egypt or Tunisia) and 26 studies from sub-Saharan Africa involving 4,737 women with breast cancer (mainly living in Nigeria or South Africa) and used the data from these studies to calculate the proportions of ER+, PR+, and HER2+ tumors (the number of receptor-positive tumors divided by the number of tumors with known receptor status) across Africa. The proportion of ER+ tumors varied markedly between studies, ranging between 0.40 and 0.80 in North Africa and between 0.20 and 0.70 in sub-Saharan Africa. Among prospectively collected samples (samples collected specifically for receptor-status testing; studies that determined the receptor status of breast cancers using stored samples reported a lower proportion of ER+ disease than studies that used prospectively collected samples), the overall pooled proportions of ER+ and triple negative tumors were 0.59 and 0.21, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings highlight the scarcity of data on hormone receptor and HER2 status in breast cancers in indigenous African populations, they provide new information about the distribution of breast cancer subtypes in Africa. Specifically, these findings suggest that although slightly more than half of breast cancers in Africa are ER+, no single subtype dominates. They also suggest that the distribution of receptor-defined breast cancer subtypes in Africa is similar to that found in Western populations. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by the low methodological quality of many of the studies and the lack of standardized procedures. Thus, large well-designed studies are still needed to accurately quantify the distribution of various breast cancer subtypes across Africa. In the meantime, the current findings support the introduction of routine receptor testing across Africa, especially for young women with early stage breast cancer in whom the potential to improve survival and reduce the years of life lost by knowing the receptor status of an individual's tumor is greatest.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001720.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Sulma i Mohammed
The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information for patients and professionals about breast cancer including an online booklet for patients
Cancer Research UK, a not-for profit organization, provides information about cancer; its detailed information about breast cancer includes sections on tests for hormone receptors and HER2 and on treatments that target hormone receptors and treatments that target HER2
Breastcancer.org is a not-for-profit organization that provides up-to-date information about breast cancer (in English and Spanish), including information on hormone receptor status and HER2 status
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer; the not-for profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001720
PMCID: PMC4159229  PMID: 25202974
8.  Birth Size and Breast Cancer Risk: Re-analysis of Individual Participant Data from 32 Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(9):e193.
Background
Birth size, perhaps a proxy for prenatal environment, might be a correlate of subsequent breast cancer risk, but findings from epidemiological studies have been inconsistent. We re-analysed individual participant data from published and unpublished studies to obtain more precise estimates of the magnitude and shape of the birth size–breast cancer association.
Methods and Findings
Studies were identified through computer-assisted and manual searches, and personal communication with investigators. Individual participant data from 32 studies, comprising 22,058 breast cancer cases, were obtained. Random effect models were used, if appropriate, to combine study-specific estimates of effect. Birth weight was positively associated with breast cancer risk in studies based on birth records (pooled relative risk [RR] per one standard deviation [SD] [= 0.5 kg] increment in birth weight: 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02–1.09) and parental recall when the participants were children (1.02; 95% CI 0.99–1.05), but not in those based on adult self-reports, or maternal recall during the woman's adulthood (0.98; 95% CI 0.95–1.01) (p for heterogeneity between data sources = 0.003). Relative to women who weighed 3.000–3.499 kg, the risk was 0.96 (CI 0.80–1.16) in those who weighed < 2.500 kg, and 1.12 (95% CI 1.00–1.25) in those who weighed ≥ 4.000 kg (p for linear trend = 0.001) in birth record data. Birth length and head circumference from birth records were also positively associated with breast cancer risk (pooled RR per one SD increment: 1.06 [95% CI 1.03–1.10] and 1.09 [95% CI 1.03–1.15], respectively). Simultaneous adjustment for these three birth size variables showed that length was the strongest independent predictor of risk. The birth size effects did not appear to be confounded or mediated by established breast cancer risk factors and were not modified by age or menopausal status. The cumulative incidence of breast cancer per 100 women by age 80 y in the study populations was estimated to be 10.0, 10.0, 10.4, and 11.5 in those who were, respectively, in the bottom, second, third, and top fourths of the birth length distribution.
Conclusions
This pooled analysis of individual participant data is consistent with birth size, and in particular birth length, being an independent correlate of breast cancer risk in adulthood.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Last year, more than one million women discovered that they had breast cancer. In the US, nearly 200,000 women will face the same diagnosis this year and 40,000 will die because of breast cancer. Put another way, about one in eight US women will have breast cancer during her lifetime. Like all cancers, breast cancer begins when cells acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). This uncontrolled division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual examination of the breasts. Breast cancer is treated by surgical removal of the lump or, if the cancer has started to spread, by removal of the whole breast (mastectomy). Surgery is usually followed by radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and other treatments designed to kill any remaining cancer cells. Unlike some cancers, the outlook for women with breast cancer is good. In the US, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Scientists have identified several factors that increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer by comparing the characteristics of populations of women with and without breast cancer. Well-established risk factors include increasing age, not having children, and having a late menopause, but another potential risk factor for breast cancer is birth size. A baby's weight, length, and head circumference at birth (three related measures of birth size) depend on the levels of hormones (including estrogen, a hormone that often affects breast cancer growth) and other biological factors to which the baby is exposed during pregnancy—its prenatal environment. The idea that prenatal environment might also affect breast cancer risk in later life was first proposed in 1990, but the findings of studies that have tried to investigate this possibility have been inconsistent. Here, the researchers re-analyze individual participant data from a large number of studies into women's health conducted in Europe, Northern America, and China to get more precise information about the association between birth size and breast cancer risk.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 32 published and unpublished studies that had collected information on birth size and on the occurrence of breast cancer. They then obtained the individual participant data from these studies, which involved more than 22,000 women who had developed breast cancer and more than 600,000 women who had not. Their analyses of these data show that birth weight was positively associated with breast cancer risk in those studies where this measurement was recorded at birth or based on parental recall during the study participant's childhood (but not in those studies in which birth weight was self-reported or maternally recalled during the participant's adulthood). For example, women with recorded birth weights of more than 4 kg or more had a 12% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who weighed 3–3.5 kg at birth. Birth length and head circumference were also positively associated with breast cancer risk, but birth length was the strongest single predictor of risk. Finally, the amount by which birth size affected breast cancer risk was not affected by allowing for other established risk factors.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that birth size—in particular, birth length—is a marker of a woman's breast cancer risk in adulthood although the mechanisms underlying this association are unclear. The researchers note that the observed effect of birth size on breast cancer risk is of a similar magnitude to that of other more established risk factors and estimate that 5% of all breast cancers in developed countries could be caused by a high birth size. Because practically all the studies included in this pooled analysis were done in developed countries, these findings may not hold for developing countries. Further investigations into how the prenatal environment may affect breast cancer risk might identify new ways to prevent this increasingly common cancer.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050193.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Trichopoulos and Lagiou
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, including information on risk factors for breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; Medline Plus also provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity Cancerbackup also provides detailed information about breast cancer
Cancer Research UK is the UK's leading charity dedicated to cancer research
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050193
PMCID: PMC2553821  PMID: 18828667
9.  Clinical management of secondary angiosarcoma after breast conservation therapy 
Aim
The aim of this paper is to summarize the treatment outputs of secondary angiosarcoma after breast conservation therapy at St. Eizabeth Cancer Centre, Slovakia.
Background
Angiosarcoma of the breast is a rare but very aggressive malignant tumor of the vascular endothelium, characterized by rapidly proliferating and extensively infiltrating growth. Breast angiosarcoma may occur de novo, or as a complication of radiation therapy, or chronic lymphedema secondary to axillary lymph node dissection for mammary carcinoma. Radiotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer is associated with an increased risk of subsequent sarcoma.
Materials and methods
Retrospective study of medical records from the cancer databases was done in order to analyze the secondary breast angiosarcoma. This disease is an iatrogenic condition that warrants close follow-up and judicial use of radiotherapy in breast conserving therapy. Therefore, it is more prevalent in cases treated with radiotherapy, occurring especially in or adjacent to the radiation field. Clinical histories and follow-up data of identified patients after breast conservation therapy of invasive breast cancer were reviewed. In addition, a comprehensive literature review on diagnosis and treatment procedures was done in order to summarize state-of-the-art clinical approach.
Results and discussions
Three cases of secondary angiosarcoma after breast conservation therapy (BCT) were identified among 4600 patients treated at St. Elizabeth Cancer Institute during previous 16 years (1995–2011). Secondary breast angiosarcoma was diagnosed in a median period of 11 years following primary radiotherapy, median age at the time of diagnosis was 75 years. Surgical treatment consisted of radical mastectomy. The first patient, a 56-year-old woman received neoadjuvant chemotherapy (docetaxel + gemcitabin), second one (75 year) was treated by radiotherapy (TD 26 Gy, 2 Gy per fraction), since chemotherapy was not indicated. The last patient (80 year) got adjuvant chemotherapy (paclitaxel). Average follow up of the patients was 31 months. As of 31 July 2012, our patients were doing well without evidence of recurrent disease after treatment.
Conclusions
Angiosarcoma remains a difficult management problem with poor loco-regional and distal control. In our study, an overall incidence rate of secondary breast angiosarcoma is 0.065%. Although the prognosis for this disease is poor (typical survival period is 14.5–34 months with a 5-year survival rate of approximately 15%), all the three patients treated at our institute are alive and disease-free at the end of reported period. Finally, it is assumed that the use of breast conserving therapy will increase the incidence of post-irradiation angiosarcoma but the small difference in risk of subsequent sarcoma of the breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy does not suppress its benefit.
doi:10.1016/j.rpor.2013.07.013
PMCID: PMC4056516  PMID: 24936318
Breast cancer; Sarcoma; External-beam radiotherapy; Multimodality therapy; Radiationinduced late effects
10.  Hypofractionated radiotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy do not increase radiation-induced dermatitis in breast cancer patients 
Current Oncology  2010;17(5):22-27.
Purpose
Radiation-induced dermatitis is a common side effect of breast irradiation, with hypofractionation being a well-known risk factor. In the context of the widespread adoption of hypofractionated breast radiotherapy, we evaluated the effect of hypofractionated radiotherapy on the incidence of skin toxicity in patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy.
Patients and Methods
We retrospectively reviewed the records of patients with breast cancer treated from 2004 to 2006 at a single institution. Patients undergoing lumpectomy with or without adjuvant chemotherapy followed by hypofractionated radiotherapy consisting of 42.4 Gy in 16 fractions were included in the study. Using cosmetic and skin toxicity scales, all patients were evaluated weekly during treatment and at scheduled follow-up visits with the radiation oncologist.
Results
During the study period, 162 patients underwent radiotherapy, and 30% of those (n = 48) received chemotherapy. Radiotherapy boost to the tumour bed was more common in the chemotherapy group [n = 20 (42%)] than in the radiotherapy-alone group [n = 30 (26%)]. We observed no statistically significant difference between the groups with regard to acute skin toxicity of grade 3 or higher (2.1% in the chemotherapy group vs. 4.4% in the radiation-alone group, p = 0.67) or of grades 1–2 toxicity (62.5% vs. 51.7% respectively, p = 0.23). There was also no significant difference in late grade 3 or higher skin toxicity between the groups (2.1% vs. 0% respectively, p = 0.30) or in grades 1–2 toxicity (20.8% vs. 25.5% respectively, p = 0.69). Similarly, excellent or good cosmetic result scores were similar in both groups (p = 0.80)
Conclusions
In our single-institution review, we observed no adverse effects of chemotherapy in combination with hypofractionated whole-breast irradiation. Further investigations are necessary to better elucidate the effects of chemotherapy on skin toxicity in the context of hypofractionated irradiation.
PMCID: PMC2949365  PMID: 20975875
Breast cancer; hypofractionated radiotherapy; chemotherapy; skin toxicity
11.  Challenges in managing breast cancer during pregnancy 
Journal of Thoracic Disease  2013;5(Suppl 1):S62-S67.
Pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) is defined as breast cancer occurring anytime during gestation, lactation or within one year after delivery. The optimal management of pregnant women with breast cancer is challenging and not well established; the main concern is the effect of the drugs on the developing fetus and long-term complications after in utero exposure to anti-cancer drugs. Surgical resection is the mainstay of treatment for early breast cancer diagnosed during pregnancy. Modified radical mastectomy is standard of care in first trimester, whereas breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy with lymph node dissection) can be performed preferably in the second and third trimester. Of note, breast-conserving surgery is not contraindicated per se during the first trimester, but owing to the potential impact of delaying radiotherapy. Radiation therapy is not favored during pregnancy. Moreover, tamoxifen is contraindicated during pregnancy; the agent has been associated with birth defects in up to 20% of exposures. Chemotherapy is generally contraindicated during the first trimester because of the possible damage to organogenesis. Anthracyclines-based regimens are the most widely used is breast cancer treatment and were been shown to be associated with favourable safety profile when administered during pregnancy. As for taxanes, more limited data is available. The use of trastuzumab is contraindicated during pregnancy, given the apparent risk of oligo- and/or anhydramnios as well as the unknown long-term sequelae on the fetus. It is obvious that, diagnosis of breast cancer during pregnancy adds complexity to cancer treatment recommendations. In all cases, a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach among obstetricians, gynaecologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, pediatricians and hematologists is clearly warranted.
doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2013.05.21
PMCID: PMC3695539  PMID: 23819029
Breast cancer; pregnancy; controversies; chemotherapy
12.  Early and late skin reactions to radiotherapy for breast cancer and their correlation with radiation-induced DNA damage in lymphocytes 
Breast Cancer Research  2005;7(5):R690-R698.
Introduction
Radiotherapy outcomes might be further improved by a greater understanding of the individual variations in normal tissue reactions that determine tolerance. Most published studies on radiation toxicity have been performed retrospectively. Our prospective study was launched in 1996 to measure the in vitro radiosensitivity of peripheral blood lymphocytes before treatment with radical radiotherapy in patients with breast cancer, and to assess the early and the late radiation skin side effects in the same group of patients. We prospectively recruited consecutive breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy after breast surgery. To evaluate whether early and late side effects of radiotherapy can be predicted by the assay, a study was conducted of the association between the results of in vitro radiosensitivity tests and acute and late adverse radiation effects.
Methods
Intrinsic molecular radiosensitivity was measured by using an initial radiation-induced DNA damage assay on lymphocytes obtained from breast cancer patients before radiotherapy. Acute reactions were assessed in 108 of these patients on the last treatment day. Late morbidity was assessed after 7 years of follow-up in some of these patients. The Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) morbidity score system was used for both assessments.
Results
Radiosensitivity values obtained using the in vitro test showed no relation with the acute or late adverse skin reactions observed. There was no evidence of a relation between acute and late normal tissue reactions assessed in the same patients. A positive relation was found between the treatment volume and both early and late side effects.
Conclusion
After radiation treatment, a number of cells containing major changes can have a long survival and disappear very slowly, becoming a chronic focus of immunological system stimulation. This stimulation can produce, in a stochastic manner, late radiation-related adverse effects of varying severity. Further research is warranted to identify the major determinants of normal tissue radiation response to make it possible to individualize treatments and improve the outcome of radiotherapy in cancer patients.
doi:10.1186/bcr1277
PMCID: PMC1242135  PMID: 16168114
13.  Breast cancer (metastatic) 
Clinical Evidence  2010;2010:0811.
Introduction
Median survival from metastatic breast cancer is 12 months without treatment, but young people can survive up to 20 years with the disease, whereas in other metastatic cancers this would be considered unusual.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of first-line hormonal treatment? What are the effects of second-line hormonal treatment in women who have not responded to tamoxifen? What are the effects of first-line chemotherapy? What are the effects of first-line chemotherapy in combination with a monoclonal antibody? What are the effects of second-line chemotherapy? What are the effects of treatments for bone metastases? What are the effects of treatments for spinal cord metastases? What are the effects of treatments for cerebral or choroidal metastases? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to June 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 77 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: first-line hormonal treatment using anti-oestrogens (tamoxifen), ovarian ablation, progestins, selective aromatase inhibitors, or combined gonadorelin analogues plus tamoxifen; second-line hormonal treatment using progestins or selective aromatase inhibitors; first-line non-taxane combination chemotherapy; first-line taxane-based combination chemotherapy; first-line high- versus low-dose standard chemotherapy; first-line chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibody (bevacizumab, trastuzumab); first-line chemotherapy plus tyrosine kinase inhibitor (lapatinib); second-line taxane-based combination chemotherapy; second-line capecitabine or semi-synthetic vinca alkaloids for anthracycline-resistant disease; second-line chemotherapy plus tyrosine kinase inhibitor (lapatinib); and treatment for bone, spinal, or choroidal metastases using bisphosphonates, intrathecal chemotherapy, radiotherapy (alone or plus corticosteroids) radiation sensitisers, or surgical resection.
Key Points
Median survival from metastatic breast cancer is 12 months without treatment, but young people can survive up to 20 years with the disease, whereas in other metastatic cancers this would be considered very unusual.
Anti-oestrogens (tamoxifen) result in tumour responses in about one third of women with oestrogen receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer when used as first-line treatment, but most women eventually develop resistant disease. Progestins and ovarian ablation may be as effective as tamoxifen as first-line treatment but are associated with more adverse effects, while adding tamoxifen to gonadorelin analogues increases survival and response rates.Selective aromatase inhibitors may be as effective in delaying disease progression as tamoxifen for first-line treatment, and as effective as tamoxifen or progestins as second-line treatment in postmenopausal women, with similar overall survival. The benefit may be greatest in oestrogen receptor-positive women.
Hormonal treatment using tamoxifen or progestins may be preferable to chemotherapy as first-line treatment in women with oestrogen receptor-positive disease.
First-line chemotherapy is associated with an objective tumour response in 40% to 60% of women, of median duration of 6 to 12 months. Complete remission may occur in some women, whereas others show little or no response. First-line classical non-taxane combination chemotherapy, especially those containing anthracyclines, may be more effective than modified regimens and as effective as hormonal treatments in prolonging survival.The optimum duration of chemotherapy is unknown. Increasing the dose may increase serious adverse effects without prolonging survival.
Adding trastuzumab to standard first-line chemotherapy increases response rates and overall survival in women with HER2/neu overexpression, but risks of cardiac function are increased in women also receiving anthracyclines. Adding bevacizumab or lapatinib to standard first-line chemotherapy may also be more effective than standard chemotherapy alone but we cannot be certain as high-quality evidence is still emerging.
Taxane-based chemotherapy may increase tumour response and survival compared with some non-taxane regimens as second-line treatment. No clear benefit has been found in first-line treatment.
We don't know how capecitabine or semisynthetic vinca alkaloids perform as second-line treatment for anthracycline-resistant disease. Adding bevacizumab or lapatinib to capecitabine may also be more effective at increasing response rates and improving quality of life than second-line capecitabine alone, and adding lapatinib may also increase survival, but we cannot be certain as high-quality evidence is still emerging.
Bisphosphonates reduce skeletal complications from bone metastases, while radiotherapy may reduce pain and complications from bone metastases, cranial nerve or spinal cord compression, and in brain or choroidal metastases.
PMCID: PMC3217794  PMID: 21418674
14.  Clinical practice guidelines for the care and treatment of breast cancer: 15. Treatment for women with stage III or locally advanced breast cancer 
Objective
To define the optimal treatment for women with stage III or locally advanced breast cancer (LABC).
Evidence
Systematic review of English-language literature retrieved from MEDLINE (1984 to June 2002) and CANCERLIT (1983 to June 2002). A nonsystematic review of the literature was continued through December 2003.
Recommendations
· The management of LABC requires a combined modality treatment approach involving surgery, radiotherapy and systemic therapy.
Systemic therapy: chemotherapy
Operable tumours
· Patients with operable stage IIIA disease should be offered chemotherapy. They should receive adjuvant chemotherapy following surgery, or primary chemotherapy followed by locoregional management.
· Chemotherapy should contain an anthracycline. Acceptable regimens are 6 cycles of FAC, CAF, CEF or FEC. Taxanes are under intense investigation.
Inoperable tumours
· Patients with stage IIIB or IIIC disease, including those with inflammatory breast cancer and those with isolated ipsilateral internal mammary or supraclavicular lymph-node involvement, should be treated with primary anthracycline-based chemotherapy.
· Acceptable chemotherapy regimens are FAC, CAF, CEF or FEC. Taxanes are under intense investigation.
· Patients with stage IIIB or IIIC disease who respond to primary chemotherapy should be treated until the response plateaus or to a maximum of 6 cycles (minimum 4 cycles). Patients with stage IIIB disease should then undergo definitive surgery and irradiation. The locoregional management of patients with stage IIIC disease who respond to chemotherapy should be individualized. In patients with stage IIIB or IIIC disease who achieve maximum response with fewer than 6 cycles, further adjuvant chemotherapy can be given following surgery and irradiation. Patients whose tumours do not respond to primary chemotherapy can be treated with taxane chemotherapy or can proceed directly to irradiation followed by modified radical mastectomy, if feasible.
Systemic therapy: hormonal therapy
Operable and inoperable tumours
· Tamoxifen for 5 years should be recommended to pre- and postmenopausal women whose tumours are hormone responsive.
Locoregional management
Operable tumours
· Patients with stage IIIA disease should receive both modified radical mastectomy (MRM) and locoregional radiotherapy if feasible. They may be managed with MRM followed by chemotherapy and locoregional radiotherapy, or chemotherapy first followed by MRM and locoregional radiotherapy. Breast-conserving surgery is currently not a standard approach.
· Locoregional radiotherapy should be delivered to the chest wall and to the supraclavicular and axillary nodes. The role of internal mammary irradiation is unclear.
Inoperable tumours
· Patients with stage IIIB disease who respond to chemotherapy should receive surgery plus locoregional radiotherapy.
· The locoregional management of patients with stage IIIC disease who respond to chemotherapy is unclear and should be individualized.
· Patients whose disease remains inoperable following chemotherapy should receive locoregional radiotherapy with subsequent surgery, if feasible.
Validation
The authors' original text was revised by members of the Steering Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Subsequently, feedback was provided by 9 oncologists from across Canada. The final document was approved by the steering committee.
Sponsor
The Steering Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care and Treatment of Breast Cancer was convened by Health Canada.
Completion date
December 2003.
doi:10.1503/cmaj.1030944
PMCID: PMC359433  PMID: 15023926
15.  Factors of influence on acute skin toxicity of breast cancer patients treated with standard three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) after breast conserving surgery (BCS) 
Purpose/Objectives
Standard 3D-CRT after BCS may cause skin toxicity with a wide range of intensity including acute effects like erythema or late effects. In order to reduce these side effects it is mandatory to identify potential factors of influence in breast cancer patients undergoing standard three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) of the breast and modern systemic therapy.
Materials/Methods
Between 2006 and 2010 a total of 211 breast cancer patients (median age 52,4 years, range 24–77) after BCS consecutively treated in our institution with 3D-CRT (50 Gy whole breast photon radiotherapy followed by 16 Gy electron boost to the tumorbed) were evaluated with special focus on documented skin toxicity at the end of the 50 Gy-course. Standardized photodocumentation of the treated breast was done in each patient lying on the linac table with arms elevated. Skin toxicity was documented according to the common toxicity criteria (CTC)-score. Potential influencing factors were classified in three groups: patient-specific (smoking, age, breast size, body mass index = BMI, allergies), tumor-specific (tumorsize) and treatment-specific factors (antihormonal therapy with tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, chemotherapy). Uni- and multivariate statistical analyses were done using IBM SPSS version 19.
Results
After 50 Gy 3D-CRT to the whole breast 28.9% of all 211 patients had no erythema, 62.2% showed erythema grade 1 (G1) and 8.5% erythema grade 2. None of the patients had grade 3/4 (G3/4) erythema.
In univariate analyses a significant influence or trend on the development of acute skin toxicities (erythema G0 versus G1 versus G2) was observed for larger breast volumes (p=0,004), smoking during radiation therapy (p=0,064) and absence of allergies (p=0,014) as well as larger tumorsize (p=0,009) and antihormonal therapy (p=0.005).
Neither patient age, BMI nor choice of chemotherapy showed any significant effect on higher grade toxicity. In the multivariate analysis, factors associated with higher grade skin toxicity were larger breast target volume (p=0,003), smoking (p=0,034) and absence of allergies (p=0,002).
Conclusion
Patients treated in this study showed less objectively documented skin toxicity after 50 Gy 3D-CRT compared to similar patient cohorts. Factors associated with higher grade skin toxicity were smoking during 3D-CRT, absence of allergies and larger breast volumes.
doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-217
PMCID: PMC3598440  PMID: 23249653
Skin toxicity; Breast cancer; External beam radiotherapy
16.  Cancer Screening with Digital Mammography for Women at Average Risk for Breast Cancer, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for Women at High Risk 
Executive Summary
Objective
The purpose of this review is to determine the effectiveness of 2 separate modalities, digital mammography (DM) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), relative to film mammography (FM), in the screening of women asymptomatic for breast cancer. A third analysis assesses the effectiveness and safety of the combination of MRI plus mammography (MRI plus FM) in screening of women at high risk. An economic analysis was also conducted.
Research Questions
How does the sensitivity and specificity of DM compare to FM?
How does the sensitivity and specificity of MRI compare to FM?
How do the recall rates compare among these screening modalities, and what effect might this have on radiation exposure? What are the risks associated with radiation exposure?
How does the sensitivity and specificity of the combination of MRI plus FM compare to either MRI or FM alone?
What are the economic considerations?
Clinical Need
The effectiveness of FM with respect to breast cancer mortality in the screening of asymptomatic average- risk women over the age of 50 has been established. However, based on a Medical Advisory Secretariat review completed in March 2006, screening is not recommended for women between the ages of 40 and 49 years. Guidelines published by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Care recommend mammography screening every 1 to 2 years for women aged 50 years and over, hence, the inclusion of such women in organized breast cancer screening programs. In addition to the uncertainty of the effectiveness of mammography screening from the age of 40 years, there is concern over the risks associated with mammographic screening for the 10 years between the ages of 40 and 49 years.
The lack of effectiveness of mammography screening starting at the age of 40 years (with respect to breast cancer mortality) is based on the assumption that the ability to detect cancer decreases with increased breast tissue density. As breast density is highest in the premenopausal years (approximately 23% of postmenopausal and 53% of premenopausal women having at least 50% of the breast occupied by high density), mammography screening is not promoted in Canada nor in many other countries for women under the age of 50 at average risk for breast cancer. It is important to note, however, that screening of premenopausal women (i.e., younger than 50 years of age) at high risk for breast cancer by virtue of a family history of cancer or a known genetic predisposition (e.g., having tested positive for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and/or BRCA2) is appropriate. Thus, this review will assess the effectiveness of breast cancer screening with modalities other than film mammography, specifically DM and MRI, for both pre/perimenopausal and postmenopausal age groups.
International estimates of the epidemiology of breast cancer show that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing for all ages combined whereas mortality is decreasing, though at a slower rate. The observed decreases in mortality rates may be attributable to screening, in addition to advances in breast cancer therapy over time. Decreases in mortality attributable to screening may be a result of the earlier detection and treatment of invasive cancers, in addition to the increased detection of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), of which certain subpathologies are less lethal. Evidence from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (better known as SEER) cancer registry in the United States, indicates that the age-adjusted incidence of DCIS has increased almost 10-fold over a 20 year period, from 2.7 to 25 per 100,000.
There is a 4-fold lower incidence of breast cancer in the 40 to 49 year age group than in the 50 to 69 year age group (approximately 140 per 100,000 versus 500 per 100,000 women, respectively). The sensitivity of FM is also lower among younger women (approximately 75%) than for women aged over 50 years (approximately 85%). Specificity is approximately 80% for younger women versus 90% for women over 50 years. The increased density of breast tissue in younger women is likely responsible for the decreased accuracy of FM.
Treatment options for breast cancer vary with the stage of disease (based on tumor size, involvement of surrounding tissue, and number of affected axillary lymph nodes) and its pathology, and may include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. Surgery is the first-line intervention for biopsy-confirmed tumors. The subsequent use of radiation, chemotherapy or hormonal treatments is dependent on the histopathologic characteristics of the tumor and the type of surgery. There is controversy regarding the optimal treatment of DCIS, which is considered a noninvasive tumour.
Women at high risk for breast cancer are defined as genetic carriers of the more commonly known breast cancer genes (BRCA1, BRCA2 TP53), first degree relatives of carriers, women with varying degrees of high risk family histories, and/or women with greater than 20% lifetime risk for breast cancer based on existing risk models. Genetic carriers for this disease, primarily women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, have a lifetime probability of approximately 85% of developing breast cancer. Preventive options for these women include surgical interventions such as prophylactic mastectomy and/or oophorectomy, i.e., removal of the breasts and/or ovaries. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the benefits and risks of different screening modalities, to identify additional options for these women.
This Medical Advisory Secretariat review is the second of 2 parts on breast cancer screening, and concentrates on the evaluation of both DM and MRI relative to FM, the standard of care. Part I of this review (March 2006) addressed the effectiveness of screening mammography in 40 to 49 year old average-risk women. The overall objective of the present review is to determine the optimal screening modality based on the evidence.
Evidence Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database. The subject headings and keywords searched included breast cancer, breast neoplasms, mass screening, digital mammography, magnetic resonance imaging. The detailed search strategies can be viewed in Appendix 1.
Included in this review are articles specific to screening and do not include evidence on diagnostic mammography. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1996 and April 2006. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters.
Digital Mammography: In total, 224 articles specific to DM screening were identified. These were examined against the inclusion/exclusion criteria described below, resulting in the selection and review of 5 health technology assessments (HTAs) (plus 1 update) and 4 articles specific to screening with DM.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: In total, 193 articles specific to MRI were identified. These were examined against the inclusion/exclusion criteria described below, resulting in the selection and review of 2 HTAs and 7 articles specific to screening with MRI.
The evaluation of the addition of FM to MRI in the screening of women at high risk for breast cancer was also conducted within the context of standard search procedures of the Medical Advisory Secretariat. as outlined above. The subject headings and keywords searched included the concepts of breast cancer, magnetic resonance imaging, mass screening, and high risk/predisposition to breast cancer. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between September 2007 and January 15, 2010. Case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters were not excluded.
MRI plus mammography: In total, 243 articles specific to MRI plus FM screening were identified. These were examined against the inclusion/exclusion criteria described below, resulting in the selection and review of 2 previous HTAs, and 1 systematic review of 11 paired design studies.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 1996 to April 2006, inclusive.
Articles specific to screening of women with no personal history of breast cancer.
Studies in which DM or MRI were compared with FM, and where the specific outcomes of interest were reported.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or paired studies only for assessment of DM.
Prospective, paired studies only for assessment of MRI.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies in which outcomes were not specific to those of interest in this report.
Studies in which women had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer.
Studies in which the intervention (DM or MRI) was not compared with FM.
Studies assessing DM with a sample size of less than 500.
Intervention
Digital mammography.
Magnetic resonance imaging.
Comparator
Screening with film mammography.
Outcomes of Interest
Breast cancer mortality (although no studies were found with such long follow-up).
Sensitivity.
Specificity.
Recall rates.
Summary of Findings
Digital Mammography
There is moderate quality evidence that DM is significantly more sensitive than FM in the screening of asymptomatic women aged less than 50 years, those who are premenopausal or perimenopausal, and those with heterogeneously or extremely dense breast tissue (regardless of age).
It is not known what effect these differences in sensitivity will have on the more important effectiveness outcome measure of breast cancer mortality, as there was no evidence of such an assessment.
Other factors have been set out to promote DM, for example, issues of recall rates and reading and examination times. Our analysis did not show that recall rates were necessarily improved in DM, though examination times were lower than for FM. Other factors including storage and retrieval of screens were not the subject of this analysis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
There is moderate quality evidence that the sensitivity of MRI is significantly higher than that of FM in the screening of women at high risk for breast cancer based on genetic or familial factors, regardless of age.
Radiation Risk Review
Cancer Care Ontario conducted a review of the evidence on radiation risk in screening with mammography women at high risk for breast cancer. From this review of recent literature and risk assessment that considered the potential impact of screening mammography in cohorts of women who start screening at an earlier age or who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer due to genetic susceptibility, the following conclusions can be drawn:
For women over 50 years of age, the benefits of mammography greatly outweigh the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer irrespective of the level of a woman’s inherent breast cancer risk.
Annual mammography for women aged 30 – 39 years who carry a breast cancer susceptibility gene or who have a strong family breast cancer history (defined as a first degree relative diagnosed in their thirties) has a favourable benefit:risk ratio. Mammography is estimated to detect 16 to 18 breast cancer cases for every one induced by radiation (Table 1). Initiation of screening at age 35 for this same group would increase the benefit:risk ratio to an even more favourable level of 34-50 cases detected for each one potentially induced.
Mammography for women under 30 years of age has an unfavourable benefit:risk ratio due to the challenges of detecting cancer in younger breasts, the aggressiveness of cancers at this age, the potential for radiation susceptibility at younger ages and a greater cumulative radiation exposure.
Mammography when used in combination with MRI for women who carry a strong breast cancer susceptibility (e.g., BRCA1/2 carriers), which if begun at age 35 and continued for 35 years, may confer greatly improved benefit:risk ratios which were estimated to be about 220 to one.
While there is considerable uncertainty in the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer, the risk expressed in published studies is almost certainly conservative as the radiation dose absorbed by women receiving mammography recently has been substantially reduced by newer technology.
A CCO update of the mammography radiation risk literature for 2008 and 2009 gave rise to one article by Barrington de Gonzales et al. published in 2009 (Barrington de Gonzales et al., 2009, JNCI, vol. 101: 205-209). This article focuses on estimating the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer for mammographic screening of young women at high risk for breast cancer (with BRCA gene mutations). Based on an assumption of a 15% to 25% or less reduction in mortality from mammography in these high risk women, the authors conclude that such a reduction is not substantially greater than the risk of radiation-induced breast cancer mortality when screening before the age of 34 years. That is, there would be no net benefit from annual mammographic screening of BRCA mutation carriers at ages 25-29 years; the net benefit would be zero or small if screening occurs in 30-34 year olds, and there would be some net benefit at age 35 years or older.
The Addition of Mammography to Magnetic Resonance Imaging
The effects of the addition of FM to MRI screening of high risk women was also assessed, with inclusion and exclusion criteria as follows:
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles and English or French-language HTAs published from September 2007 to January 15, 2010.
Articles specific to screening of women at high risk for breast cancer, regardless of the definition of high risk.
Studies in which accuracy data for the combination of MRI plus FM are available to be compared to that of MRI and FM alone.
RCTs or prospective, paired studies only.
Studies in which women were previously diagnosed with breast cancer were also included.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies in which outcomes were not specific to those of interest in this report.
Studies in which there was insufficient data on the accuracy of MRI plus FM.
Intervention
Both MRI and FM.
Comparators
Screening with MRI alone and FM alone.
Outcomes of Interest
Sensitivity.
Specificity.
Summary of Findings
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Plus Mammography
Moderate GRADE Level Evidence that the sensitivity of MRI plus mammography is significantly higher than that of MRI or FM alone, although the specificity remains either unchanged or decreases in the screening of women at high risk for breast cancer based on genetic/familial factors, regardless of age.
These studies include women at high risk defined as BRCA1/2 or TP53 carriers, first degree relatives of carriers, women with varying degrees of high risk family histories, and/or >20% lifetime risk based on existing risk models. This definition of high risk accounts for approximately 2% of the female adult population in Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3377503  PMID: 23074406
17.  Postoperative radiotherapy and late mortality: evidence from the Cancer Research Campaign trial for early breast cancer. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1989;298(6688):1611-1614.
OBJECTIVE--To identify any excess mortality caused by adjuvant radiotherapy for early breast cancer. DESIGN--Prospective randomised clinical trial. Two thousand subjects needed for study to have a 90% chance of detecting a difference in survival rate of 7% with 95% significance. Patients were followed up until June 1988, giving follow up of 158-216 months. SETTING--A multicentre trial mainly drawing patients from centres in the United Kingdom. PATIENTS--2800 Women presenting with clinical stage I or II carcinoma of the breast from June 1970 to April 1975. INTERVENTIONS--One group of women (n = 1376) had simple mastectomy followed by immediate postoperative radiotherapy (1320 to 1510 rets). The remaining women (n = 1424) had simple mastectomy with subsequent careful observation of the axilla, radiotherapy being delayed until there was obvious progression or recurrence of disease locally. END POINT--Increased mortality in patients treated with radiotherapy from causes other than breast cancer. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--Survival was measured from time of first treatment to death or last follow up. Deaths from any cause and from specified causes were counted as events. Comparison over the whole follow up showed a slight excess mortality in the group treated with radiotherapy (relative risk 1.04; 95% confidence interval 0.94 to 1.15). The relative risk of death from breast cancer was 0.97 (0.87 to 1.08) but that of death from other causes was 1.37 (1.09 to 1.72), the increase mainly being in women who had had tumours of the left breast (1.61 (1.17 to 2.24)) and had been treated with orthovoltage (1.85 (1.27 to 2.71)). Analysis of causes of death after five years showed a relative risk of 2.11 (1.25 to 3.59) for new malignancies and of 1.65 (1.05 to 2.58) for cardiac disease, the increase in cardiac mortality being most pronounced in patients who had had tumours of the left breast and whose treatment had included orthovoltage radiation (relative risk 2.67 (1.28 to 5.55)). CONCLUSIONS--Adjuvant radiotherapy after simple mastectomy for early breast cancer produces a small excess late mortality from other cancers and cardiac disease. The risk has to be balanced against the higher risk of local recurrence when immediate postoperative radiotherapy is not given. The balance has to be assessed for each patient, and for many patients radiotherapy will still be desirable in the initial treatment of their early breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC1836871  PMID: 2503148
18.  Breast cancer (metastatic) 
Clinical Evidence  2007;2007:0811.
Introduction
Median survival from metastatic breast cancer is 12 months without treatment, but young people can survive up to 20 years with the disease, whereas in other metastatic cancers this would be considered unusual.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of first-line hormonal treatment? What are the effects of second-line hormonal treatment in women who have not responded to tamoxifen? What are the effects of first-line chemotherapy? What are the effects of first-line chemotherapy in combination with a monoclonal antibody? What are the effects of second-line chemotherapy? What are the effects of treatments for bone metastases? What are the effects of treatments for spinal cord metastases? What are the effects of treatments for cerebral or choroidal metastases? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library and other important databases up to June 2006 (BMJ Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 63 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: anthracycline-based non-taxane combination chemotherapy regimens; bisphosphonates; capecitabine or semisynthetic vinca alkaloids for anthracycline-resistant disease; chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibody (trastuzumab); classical non-taxane combination chemotherapy; combined gonadorelin analogues plus tamoxifen; hormonal treatment with antioestrogens (tamoxifen) or progestins; intrathecal chemotherapy; non-anthracycline-based regimens; non-taxane combination chemotherapy; ovarian ablation; radiation sensitisers; radiotherapy (alone, or plus appropriate analgesia, or plus high-dose corticosteroids); selective aromatase inhibitors; chemotherapy (standard, or high dose); surgical resection; tamoxifen; and taxane-based combination chemotherapy.
Key Points
Median survival from metastatic breast cancer is 12 months without treatment, but young people can survive up to 20 years with the disease, whereas in other metastatic cancers this would be considered very unusual.
Antioestrogens (tamoxifen) result in tumour responses in about a third of women with oestrogen receptor positive metastatic breast cancer when used as first line treatment, but most women eventually develop resistant disease. Progestins and ovarian ablation may be as effective as tamoxifen, while adding tamoxifen to gonadorelin analogues increases survival and response rates.Selective aromatase inhibitors may be as effective as tamoxifen, and more effective than progestins in delaying disease progression as first or second line treatment in postmenopausal women, with similar overall survival. The benefit may be greatest in oestrogen receptor positive women.
Hormonal treatment using tamoxifen or progestins may be preferable to chemotherapy as first line treatment in women with oestrogen receptor positive disease.
First line chemotherapy is associated with an objective tumour response in 40-60% of women, of median duration of 6-12 months. Complete remission may occur in some women, whereas others show little or no response at all. Classical non-taxane combination chemotherapy, especially those containing anthracyclines, may be more effective than modified regimens and as effective as hormonal treatments in prolonging survival.The optimum duration of chemotherapy is unknown. Increasing the dose may increase serious adverse effects without prolonging survival.Taxane based chemotherapy may increase tumour response and survival compared with some non-taxane regimens as second line treatment. No clear benefit has been found in first line treatment.
Adding trastuzumab to standard chemotherapy increases response rates and overall survival in women with HER2/neu overexpression, but risks of cardiac function are increased in women also receiving anthracyclines.
Bisphosphonates reduce skeletal complications from bone metastases, while radiotherapy may reduce pain and complications from bone metastases, cranial nerve or spinal cord compression, and in brain or choroidal metastases.
PMCID: PMC2943771  PMID: 19454050
19.  Radiotherapy of early breast cancer in scleroderma patients: our experience with four cases and a short review of the literature 
Purpose
Connective vascular diseases (CVD), including scleroderma, are reported to represent for some researchers a relative contraindication and for others absolute contraindication for radiotherapy. The purpose of our study is to add four new cases to the existing body of international literature and to determine whether women with pre-existing scleroderma who have been surgically treated for early breast cancer could undergo postsurgical radiotherapy without serious early and late complications.
Patients and methods
From May 1998 to November 2010, we irradiated for early breast cancer four patients suffering from pre-existing scleroderma; after conservative surgery, we performed whole breast postoperative radiotherapy of 50.4 Gy total dose to the whole breast plus a 9 Gy boost to the tumor bed. We reviewed the records of all four patients and evaluated the early and late reactions using acute radiation morbidity scoring criteria (Radiation Therapy Oncology Group [RTOG], American College of Radiology, Philadelphia, PA) and late radiation morbidity scoring scheme (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer [EORTC], Brussels, Belgium and RTOG).
Results
After a median follow-up of 105 months (range 12–155 months) the early and late toxicity concerning the skin, the subcutaneous tissues, the lungs, and the heart have been acceptable and are in full accordance with what have been reported in international literature.
Conclusion
This study matches global experience, which shows that patients with scleroderma and breast cancer must be discussed by the multidisciplinary tumor board in order for a personalized treatment strategy to be formulated. Radiation therapy can be proposed as a postsurgical therapeutic option in selected cases.
doi:10.2147/BCTT.S28412
PMCID: PMC3846919  PMID: 24367188
breast radiotherapy; early toxicity; late complications; short review; scleroderma
20.  Anthracycline and concurrent radiotherapy as adjuvant treatment of operable breast cancer: a retrospective cohort study in a single institution 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:247.
Background
Concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CCRT) after breast surgery was investigated by few authors and remains controversial, because of concerns of toxicity with taxanes/anthracyclines and radiation. This treatment is not standard and is more commonly used for locally advanced breast cancer. The aim of our study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of the concomitant use of anthracycline with radiotherapy (RT).
Findings
Four hundred women having operable breast cancer, treated by adjuvant chemotherapy (CT) and RT in concomitant way between January 2001 and December 2003, were included in this retrospective cohort study. The study compares 2 adjuvant treatments using CCRT, the first with anthracycline (group A) and the second with CMF (group B). The CT treatment was repeated every 21 days for 6 courses and the total delivered dose of RT was 50 Gy, divided as 2 Gy daily fractions. Locoregional recurrence free (LRFS), event free (EFS), and overall survivals (OS) were estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method. The log-rank test was used to compare survival events. Multivariate Cox-regression was used to evaluate the relationship between patient characteristics, treatment and survival.
In the 2 groups (A+B) (n = 400; 249 in group A and 151 in group B), the median follow-up period was 74.5 months. At 5 years, the isolated LRFS was significantly higher in group A compared to group B (98.7% vs 95.3%; hazard ratio [HR] = 0.258; 95% CI, 0.067 to 0.997; log-rank P = .034). In addition, the use of anthracycline regimens was associated with a higher rate of 5 years EFS (80.4% vs 75.1%; HR = 0.665; 95% CI, 0.455 to 1.016; log-rank P = .057). The 5 years OS was 83.2% and 79.2% in the anthracycline and CMF groups, respectively (HR = 0.708; 95% CI, 0.455 to 1.128; log-rank P = .143). Multivariate analysis confirmed the positive effect of anthracycline regimens on LRFS (HR = 0.347; 95% CI, 0.114 to 1.053; log-rank P = .062), EFS (HR = 0.539; 95% CI, 0.344 to 0.846; P = 0.012), and OS (HR = 0.63; 95% CI, 0.401 to 0.991; P = .046). LRFS, EFS and OS were significantly higher in the anthracycline group where the patients (n = 288) received more than 1 cycle of concurrent CT (P = .038, P = .026 and P = .038, respectively). LRFS and EFS were significantly higher in the anthracycline group within the BCT subgroup (P = .049 and P = .04, respectively). There were more hematologic, and more grade 2/3/4 skin toxicity in the anthracycline group.
Conclusions
After mastectomy or BCT, the adjuvant treatment based on anthracycline and concurrent RT reduced breast cancer relapse rate, and significantly improved LRFS, EFS and OS in the patients receiving more than 1 cycle of concurrent CT. There were more hematologic and non hematologic toxicities in the anthracycline group.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-247
PMCID: PMC2958885  PMID: 20920323
21.  Concurrent chemoradiotherapy in adjuvant treatment of breast cancer 
Background
The optimal sequencing of chemotherapy and radiotherapy after breast surgery was largely studied but remains controversial. Concurrent chemo-radiotherapy is a valuable method for adjuvant treatment of breast cancer which is under ongoing research program in our hospital. We are evaluating the feasibility of the concomitant use of chemotherapy retrospectively.
Methods
Two hundred forty four women having breast cancer were investigated in a retrospective study. All patients were either treated by radical surgery or breast conservative surgery. The study compares two adjuvant treatments associating concomitant chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In the first group (group A) the patients were treated by chemotherapy and radiotherapy in concomitant way using anthracycline (n = 110). In the second group (group B) the patients were treated by chemotherapy and radiotherapy in concomitant way using CMF treatment (n = 134). Chemotherapy was administered in six cycles, one each 3 weeks. Radiotherapy delivered a radiation dose of 50 Gy on the whole breast (or on the external wall) and/or on the lymphatic region. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the rates of disease free survival, loco-regional recurrence-free survival and overall survival. The Pearson Khi2 test was used to analyse the homogeneity between the two groups. The log-rank test was used to evaluate the differences between the two groups A and B.
Results
After 76.4 months median follow-up (65.3 months mean follow up), only one patient relapsed to loco-regional breast cancer when the treatment was based on anthracycline. However, 8 patients relapsed to loco-regional breast cancer when the treatment was based on CMF. In the anthracycline group, the disease free survival after 5 years, was 80.4% compared to 76.4% in the CMF group (Log-rank test: p = 0.136). The overall survival after 5 years was 82.5% and 81.1% in the anthracycline and CMF groups respectively (Log-rank test: p = 0.428). The loco-regional free survival at 5 years was equal to 98.6% in group A and 94% in group B (Log-rank test: p = 0,033). The rate of grade II and grade III anaemia was 13.9% and 6.7% in anthracycline group and CMF group respectively (Khi2-test: p = 0.009). The rate of grade II and grade III skin dermatitis toxicity was 4.5% in the group A and 0% in the group B (Khi2-test: p = 0.013).
Conclusion
From the 5 years retrospective investigation we showed similar disease free survival and overall survival in the two concurrent chemo-radiotherapy treatments based on anthracycline and CMF. However in the loco-regional breast cancer the treatment based on anthracycline was significantly better than that of the treatment based on CMF. There was more haematological and skin dermatitis toxicity in the anthracycline group.
doi:10.1186/1748-717X-4-12
PMCID: PMC2679760  PMID: 19351405
22.  Thermal boost combined with interstitial brachytherapy in breast conserving therapy – Assessment of early toxicity 
Background
Hyperthermia (HT) causes a direct damage to cancerous cells and/or sensitize them to radiotherapy with usually minimal injury to normal tissues. Adjuvant HT is probably one of the most effective radiation sensitizers known and works best when delivered simultaneously with radiation. In breast conserving therapy, irradiation has to minimize the risk of local relapse within the treated breast, especially in an area of a tumor bed. Brachytherapy boost reduces 5-year local recurrence rate to mean 5,5%, so there still some place for further improvement. The investigated therapeutic option is an adjuvant single session of local HT (thermal boost) preceding standard CT-based multicatheter interstitial HDR brachytherapy boost in order to increase the probability of local cure.
Aim
To report the short-term results in regard to early toxicity of high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy (BT) boost with or without interstitial microwave hyperthermia (MV HT) for early breast cancer patients treated with breast conserving therapy (BCT).
Materials and methods
Between February 2006 and December 2007, 57 stage IA–IIIA breast cancer patients received a 10 Gy HDR BT boost after conservative surgery and 42.5–50 Gy whole breast irradiation (WBI) ± adjuvant chemotherapy. 32 patients (56.1%) were treated with additional pre-BT single session of interstitial MW HT to a tumor bed (multi-catheter technique). Reference temperature was 43 °C and therapeutic time (TT) was 1 h. Incidence, severity and duration of radiodermatitis, skin oedema and skin erythema in groups with (I) or without HT (II) were assessed, significant p-value ≤ 0.05.
Results
Median follow-up was 40 months. Local control was 100% and distant metastasis free survival was 91.1%. HT sessions (median): reference temperature 42.2 °C, therapeutic time (TT) 61.4 min, total thermal dose 42 min and a gap between HT and BT 30 min. Radiodermatitis grades I and II occurred in 24 and 6 patients, respectively, differences between groups I and II were not significant. Skin oedema and erythema occurred in 48 (85.7%) and 36 (64.3%) cases, respectively, and were equally distributed between the groups. The incidence and duration of skin oedema differed between the subgroups treated with different fractionation protocols of WBI, p = 0.006. Skin oedema was present up to 12 months. No difference in pattern of oedema regression between groups I and II was observed, p = 0.933.
Conclusion
Additional thermal boost preceding standard HDR BT boost has a potential of further improvement in breast cancer local control in BCT. Pre-BT hyperthermia did not increase early toxicity in patients treated with BCT and was well tolerated. All side effects of combined treatment were transient and were present for up to 12 months. The increase in incidence of skin oedema was related to hypofractionated protocols of WBI. The study has to be randomized and continued on a larger group of breast cancer patients to verify the potential of local control improvement and to assess the profile of late toxicity.
doi:10.1016/j.rpor.2011.02.004
PMCID: PMC3863141  PMID: 24376963
Hyperthermia; Brachytherapy boost; Breast cancer
23.  Breast-conserving surgery with or without radiotherapy in women with ductal carcinoma in situ: a meta-analysis of randomized trials 
Background
To investigate whether Radiation therapy (RT) should follow breast conserving surgery in women with ductal carcinoma in situ from breast cancer (DCIS) with objective of decreased mortality, invasive or non invasive recurrence, distant metastases and contralateral breast cancer rates. We have done a meta-analysis of these results to give a more balanced view of the total evidence and to increase statistical precision.
Methods
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCT) was performed comparing RT treatment for DCIS of breast cancer to observation. The MEDLINE, EMBASE, CANCERLIT, Cochrane Library databases, Trial registers, bibliographic databases, and recent issues of relevant journals were searched. Relevant reports were reviewed by two reviewers independently and the references from these reports were searched for additional trials, using guidelines set by QUOROM statement criteria.
Results
The reviewers identified four large RCTs, yielding 3665 patients. Pooled results from this four randomized trials of adjuvant radiotherapy showed a significant reduction of invasive and DCIS ipsilateral breast cancer with odds ratio (OR) of 0.40 (95% CI 0.33 – 0.60, p < 0.00001) and 0.40 (95% CI 0.31 – 0.53, p < 0.00001), respectively. There was not difference in distant metastases (OR = 1.04, 95% CI 0.57–1.91, p = 0.38) and death rates (OR = 1.08, 95%CI 0.65 – 1.78, p = 0.45) between the two arms. There was more contralateral breast cancer after adjuvant RT (66/1711 = 3.85%) versus observation (49/1954 = 2.5%). The likelihood of contralateral breast cancer was 1.53-fold higher (95% CI 1.05 – 2.24, p = 0.03) in radiotherapy arms.
Conclusion
The conclusion from our meta-analysis is that the addition of radiation therapy to lumpectomy results in an approximately 60% reduction in breast cancer recurrence, no benefit for survival or distant metastases compared to excision alone. Patients with high-grade DCIS lesions and positive margins benefited most from the addition of radiation therapy. It is not yet clear which patients can be successfully treated with lumpectomy alone; until further prospective studies answer this question, radiation should be recommended after lumpectomy for all patients without contraindications.
doi:10.1186/1748-717X-2-28
PMCID: PMC1952067  PMID: 17683529
24.  Optimal Sequence of Implied Modalities in the Adjuvant Setting of Breast Cancer Treatment: An Update on Issues To Consider 
The Oncologist  2010;15(11):1169-1178.
Breast surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonotherapy, and targeted agents are all being used together concomitantly or sequentially with the aim to achieve local and distant control and improve survival in breast cancer patients. With this goal being reached more and more often nowadays, quality of life emerges as another issue of pivotal importance. Existing data on the maximum acceptable delay of radiotherapy when given as sole adjuvant treatment after surgery and the optimal sequence of all these modalities with respect to each other are reviewed.
The adjuvant setting of early breast cancer treatment is an evolving field where different modalities must be combined to improve outcomes; moreover, quality of life of breast cancer survivors emerges as a new important parameter to consider, thus implying a better understanding of toxicities of these modalities. We have conducted a review focusing on the latest literature of the past 3 years, trying to evaluate the existing data on the maximum acceptable delay of radiotherapy when given as sole adjuvant treatment after surgery and the optimal sequence of all these modalities with respect to each other. It becomes evident radiotherapy should be given as soon as possible and within a time frame of 6–20 weeks. Chemotherapy is given before radiotherapy and hormone therapy. However, radiotherapy should be started within 7 months after surgery in these cases. Hormone therapy with tamoxifen might be given safely concomitantly or sequentially with radiotherapy although solid data are still lacking. The concurrent administration of letrozole and radiotherapy seems to be safe, whereas data on trastuzumab can imply only that it is safe to use concurrently with radiotherapy. Randomized comparisons of hormone therapy and trastuzumab administration with radiotherapy need to be performed.
doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2010-0187
PMCID: PMC3227907  PMID: 21041378
Radiotherapy; Chemotherapy; Hormone therapy; Trastuzumab; Sequence; Delay; Breast cancer; AROME
25.  Sequencing chemotherapy and radiotherapy in locoregional advanced breast cancer patients after mastectomy – a retrospective analysis 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:114.
Background
Combined chemo- and radiotherapy are established in breast cancer treatment. Chemotherapy is recommended prior to radiotherapy but decisive data on the optimal sequence are rare. This retrospective analysis aimed to assess the role of sequencing in patients after mastectomy because of advanced locoregional disease.
Methods
A total of 212 eligible patients had a stage III breast cancer and had adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy after mastectomy and axillary dissection between 1996 and 2004. According to concerted multi-modality treatment strategies 86 patients were treated sequentially (chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy) (SEQgroup), 70 patients had a sandwich treatment (SW-group) and 56 patients had simultaneous chemoradiation (SIM-group) during that time period. Radiotherapy comprised the thoracic wall and/or regional lymph nodes. The total dose was 45–50.4 Gray. As simultaneous chemoradiation CMF was given in 95.4% of patients while in sequential or sandwich application in 86% and 87.1% of patients an anthracycline-based chemotherapy was given.
Results
Concerning the parameters nodal involvement, lymphovascular invasion, extracapsular spread and extension of the irradiated region the three treatment groups were significantly imbalanced. The other parameters, e.g. age, pathological tumor stage, grading and receptor status were homogeneously distributed. Looking on those two groups with an equally effective chemotherapy (EC, FEC), the SEQ- and SW-group, the sole imbalance was the extension of LVI (57.1 vs. 25.6%, p < 0.0001).
5-year overall- and disease free survival were 53.2%/56%, 38.1%/32% and 64.2%/50%, for the sequential, sandwich and simultaneous regime, respectively, which differed significantly in the univariate analysis (p = 0.04 and p = 0.03, log-rank test). Also the 5-year locoregional or distant recurrence free survival showed no significant differences according to the sequence of chemo- and radiotherapy. In the multivariate analyses the sequence had no independent impact on overall survival (p = 0.2) or disease free survival (p = 0.4). The toxicity, whether acute nor late, showed no significant differences in the three groups. The grade III/IV acute side effects were 3.6%, 0% and 3.5% for the SIM-, SW- and SEQ-group. By tendency the SIM regime had more late side effects.
Conclusion
No clear advantage can be stated for any radio- and chemotherapy sequence in breast cancer therapy so far. This could be confirmed in our retrospective analysis in high-risk patients after mastectomy. The sequential approach is recommended according to current guidelines considering a lower toxicity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-114
PMCID: PMC2377278  PMID: 18433485

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