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1.  Quality of Life and Neutropenia in Patients with Early Stage Breast Cancer: A Randomized Pilot Study Comparing Additional Treatment with Mistletoe Extract to Chemotherapy Alone 
Chemotherapy for breast cancer often deteriorates quality of life, augments fatigue, and induces neutropenia. Mistletoe preparations are frequently used by cancer patients in Central Europe. Physicians have reported better quality of life in breast cancer patients additionally treated with mistletoe preparations during chemotherapy. Mistletoe preparations also have immunostimulant properties and might therefore have protective effects against chemotherapy-induced neutropenia.
Patients and Methods:
We conducted a prospective randomized open label pilot study with 95 patients randomized into three groups. Two groups received Iscador® M special (IMS) or a different mistletoe preparation, respectively, additionally to chemotherapy with six cycles of cyclophosphamide, adriamycin, and 5-fluoro-uracil (CAF). A control group received CAF with no additional therapy. Here we report the comparison IMS (n = 30) vs. control (n = 31). Quality of life including fatigue was assessed with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC-QLQ-C30). Neutropenia was defined as neutrophil counts <1,000/μl and assessed at baseline and one day before each CAF cycle.
In the descriptive analysis all 15 scores of the EORTC-QLQ-C30 showed better quality of life in the IMS group compared to the control group. In 12 scores the differences were significant (p < 0.02) and nine scores showed a clinically relevant and significant difference of at least 5 points. Neutropenia occurred in 3/30 IMS patients and in 8/31 control patients (p = 0.182).
This pilot study showed an improvement of quality of life by treating breast cancer patients with IMS additionally to CAF. CAF-induced neutropenia showed a trend to lower frequency in the IMS group.
PMCID: PMC3086310  PMID: 21556248
mistletoe thereapy; breast cancer; randomized clinical trial; quality of life; neutropenia
2.  Quality of life, immunomodulation and safety of adjuvant mistletoe treatment in patients with gastric carcinoma – a randomized, controlled pilot study 
Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) extracts are widely used in complementary cancer therapy. Aim of this study was to evaluate safety and efficacy of a standardized mistletoe extract (abnobaVISCUM® Quercus, aVQ) in patients with gastric cancer.
Patients and Methods
32 operated gastric cancer patients (stage Ib or II) who were waiting for oral chemotherapy with the 5-FU prodrug doxifluridine were randomized 1:1 to receive additional therapy with aVQ or no additional therapy. aVQ was injected subcutaneously three times per week from postoperative day 7 to week 24 in increasing doses. EORTC QLQ-C30 and -STO22 Quality of Life questionnaire, differential blood count, liver function tests, various cytokine levels (tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-2), CD 16+/CD56+ and CD 19+ lymphocytes were analyzed at baseline and 8, 16 and 24 weeks later.
Global health status (p <0.01), leukocyte- and eosinophil counts (p ≤0.01) increased significantly in the treatment group compared to the control group. Diarrhea was less frequently reported (7% vs. 50%, p=0.014) in the intervention group. There was no significant treatment effect on levels of TNF-alpha, IL-2, CD16+/CD56+ and CD 19+ lymphocytes and liver function tests measured by ANOVA.
Additional treatment with aVQ is safe and was associated with improved QoL of gastric cancer patients. ClinicalTrials.Gov Registration number NCT01401075.
PMCID: PMC3488325  PMID: 23033982
Qol; EORTC QLQ-C30; QLQ-STO22; 5-FU; Viscum album
3.  Clinical practice guidelines for the care and treatment of breast cancer: 15. Treatment for women with stage III or locally advanced breast cancer 
To define the optimal treatment for women with stage III or locally advanced breast cancer (LABC).
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.
· 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.
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.
The Steering Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care and Treatment of Breast Cancer was convened by Health Canada.
Completion date
December 2003.
PMCID: PMC359433  PMID: 15023926
4.  A Randomized Study on Postrelapse Disease-Free Survival with Adjuvant Mistletoe versus Oral Etoposide in Osteosarcoma Patients 
Background. Osteosarcoma is a highly malignant bone tumour. After the second relapse, the 12-month postrelapse disease-free survival (PRDFS) rate decreases below 20%. Oral Etoposide is often used in clinical practice after surgery as an “adjuvant” outside any protocol and with only limited evidence of improved survival. Viscum album fermentatum Pini (Viscum) is an extract of mistletoe plants grown on pine trees for subcutaneous (sc) injection with immunomodulatory activity. Methods. Encouraged by preliminary findings, we conducted a study where osteosarcoma patients free from disease after second metastatic relapse were randomly assigned to Viscum sc or Oral Etoposide. Our goal was to compare 12-month PRDFS rates with an equivalent historical control group. Results. Twenty patients have been enrolled, with a median age of 34 years (range 11–65) and a median follow-up time of 38.5 months (3–73). The median PRDSF is currently 4 months (1–47) in the Etoposide and 39 months (2–73) in the Viscum group. Patients getting Viscum reported a higher quality of life due to lower toxicity. Conclusion. Viscum shows promise as adjuvant treatment in prolonging PRDFS after second relapse in osteosarcoma patients. A larger study is required to conclusively determine efficacy and immunomodulatory mechanisms of Viscum therapy in osteosarcoma patients.
PMCID: PMC3988743  PMID: 24803944
5.  Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of published literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: or at
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Ecopnomic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
To review and synthesize the available evidence regarding the laboratory performance, prognostic value, and predictive value of Oncotype-DX for the target population.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
The target population of this review is women with newly diagnosed early stage (stage I–IIIa) invasive breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and/or progesterone-receptor (PR) positive. Much of this review, however, is relevant for women with early stage (I and II) invasive breast cancer that is specifically ER positive, lymph node (LN) negative and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2/neu) negative. This refined population represents an estimated incident population of 3,315 new breast cancers in Ontario (according to 2007 data). Currently it is estimated that only 15% of these women will develop a distant metastasis at 10 years; however, a far great proportion currently receive adjuvant chemotherapy, suggesting that more women are being treated with chemotherapy than can benefit. There is therefore a need to develop better prognostic and predictive tools to improve the selection of women that may benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.
Technology of Concern
The Oncotype-DX Breast Cancer Assay (Genomic Health, Redwood City, CA) quantifies gene expression for 21 genes in breast cancer tissue by performing reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumour blocks that are obtained during initial surgery (lumpectomy, mastectomy, or core biopsy) of women with early breast cancer that is newly diagnosed. The panel of 21 genes include genes associated with tumour proliferation and invasion, as well as other genes related to HER-2/neu expression, ER expression, and progesterone receptor (PR) expression.
Research Questions
What is the laboratory performance of Oncotype-DX?
How reliable is Oncotype-DX (i.e., how repeatable and reproducible is Oncotype-DX)?
How often does Oncotype-DX fail to give a useable result?
What is the prognostic value of Oncotype-DX?*
Is Oncotype-DX recurrence score associated with the risk of distant recurrence or death due to any cause in women with early breast cancer receiving tamoxifen?
What is the predictive value of Oncotype-DX?*
Does Oncoytpe-DX recurrence score predict significant benefit in terms of improvements in 10-year distant recurrence or death due to any cause for women receiving tamoxifen plus chemotherapy in comparison to women receiving tamoxifen alone?
How does Oncotype-DX compare to other known predictors of risk such as Adjuvant! Online?
How does Oncotype-DX impact patient quality of life and clinical/patient decision-making?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on March 19th, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1st, 2006 to March 19th, 2010. A starting search date of January 1st, 2006 was because a comprehensive systematic review of Oncotype-DX was identified in preliminary literature searching. This systematic review, by Marchionni et al. (2008), included literature up to January 1st, 2007. All studies identified in the review by Marchionni et al. as well as those identified in updated literature searching were used to form the evidentiary base of this review. The quality of the overall body of evidence was identified as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Inclusion Criteria
Any observational trial, controlled clinical trial, randomized controlled trial (RCT), meta-analysis or systematic review that reported on the laboratory performance, prognostic value and/or predictive value of Oncotype-DX testing, or other outcome relevant to the Key Questions, specific to the target population was included.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that did not report original data or original data analysis,
Studies published in a language other than English,
Studies reported only in abstract or as poster presentations (such publications were not sought nor included in this review since the MAS does not generally consider evidence that is not subject to peer review nor does the MAS consider evidence that lacks detailed description of methodology).
Outcomes of Interest
Outcomes of interest varied depending on the Key Question. For the Key Questions of prognostic and predictive value (Key Questions #2 and #3), the prospectively defined primary outcome was risk of 10-year distant recurrence. The prospectively defined secondary outcome was 10-year death due to any cause (i.e., overall survival). All additional outcomes such as risk of locoregional recurrence or disease-free survival (DFS) were not prospectively determined for this review but were reported as presented in included trials; these outcomes are referenced as tertiary outcomes in this review. Outcomes for other Key Questions (i.e., Key Questions #1, #4 and #5) were not prospectively defined due to the variability in endpoints relevant for these questions.
Summary of Findings
A total of 26 studies were included. Of these 26 studies, only five studies were relevant to the primary questions of this review (Key Questions #2 and #3). The following conclusions were drawn from the entire body of evidence:
There is a lack of external validation to support the reliability of Oncotype-DX; however, the current available evidence derived from internal industry validation studies suggests that Oncotype-DX is reliable (i.e., Oncotype-DX is repeatable and reproducible).
Current available evidence suggests a moderate failure rate of Oncotype-DX testing; however, the failure rate observed across clinical trials included in this review is likely inflated; the current Ontario experience suggests an acceptably lower rate of test failure.
In women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer (stage I–II) that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node negative:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole (the latter for postmenopausal women only),
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX can predict which women will benefit from adjuvant CMF/MF chemotherapy in women being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
In postmenopausal women with newly diagnosed early breast cancer that is estrogen-receptor positive and/or progesterone-receptor positive and lymph-node positive:
There is low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited prognostic value in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen or anastrozole,
There is very low quality evidence that Oncotype-DX has limited predictive value for predicting which women will benefit from adjuvant CAF chemotherapy in women who are being treated with adjuvant tamoxifen.
There are methodological and statistical limitations that affect both the generalizability of the current available evidence, as well as the magnitude and statistical strength of the observed effect sizes; in particular:
Of the major predictive trials, Oncotype-DX scores were only produced for a small subset of women (<40% of the original randomized population) potentially disabling the effects of treatment randomization and opening the possibility of selection bias;
Data is not specific to HER-2/neu-negative women;
There were limitations with multivariate statistical analyses.
Additional trials of observational design may provide further validation of the prognostic and predictive value of Oncotype-DX; however, it is unlikely that prospective or randomized data will become available in the near future due to ethical, time and resource considerations.
There is currently insufficient evidence investigating how Oncoytpe-DX compares to other known prognostic estimators of risk, such as Adjuvant! Online, and there is insufficient evidence investigating how Oncotype-DX would impact clinician/patient decision-making in a setting generalizable to Ontario.
PMCID: PMC3382301  PMID: 23074401
6.  Barriers and challenges in integration of anthroposophic medicine in supportive breast cancer care 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:364.
In the last decade, more and more oncology centers are challenged with complementary medicine (CM) integration within supportive breast cancer care. Quality of life (QOL) improvement and attenuation of oncology treatment side effects are the core objectives of integrative CM programs in cancer care. Yet, limited research is available on the use of specific CM modalities in an integrative setting and on cancer patients’ compliance with CM consultation. Studies are especially warranted to view the clinical application of researched CM modalities, such as anthroposophic medicine (AM), a unique CM modality oriented to cancer supportive care. Our objective was to characterize consultation patterns provided by physicians trained in CM following oncology health-care practitioners’ referral of patients receiving chemotherapy. We aimed to identify characteristics of patients who consulted with AM and to explore patients’ compliance to AM treatment. Of the 341 patients consulted with integrative physicians, 138 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Following integrative physician consultation, 56 patients were advised about AM treatment and 285 about other CM modalities. Logistic multivariate regression model found that, compared with patients receiving non-anthroposophic CM, the AM group had significantly greater rates of previous CM use [EXP(B) = 3.25, 95% C.I. 1.64-6.29, p = 0.001] and higher rates of cancer recurrence at baseline (p = 0.038). Most AM users (71.4%) used a single AM modality, such as mistletoe (viscum album) injections, oral AM supplements, or music therapy. Compliance with AM modalities following physician recommendation ranged from 44% to 71% of patients. We conclude that AM treatment provided within the integrative oncology setting is feasible based on compliance assessment. Other studies are warranted to explore the effectiveness of AM in improving patients’ QOL during chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3736081  PMID: 23961426
Integrative medicine; Anthroposophic medicine; Viscum album; Quality of life; Complementary medicine; Cancer
7.  Adjuvant Chemotherapy in Older Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;360(20):2055-2065.
Older women with breast cancer are underrepresented in clinical trials, and data on the effects of adjuvant chemotherapy in such patients are scant. We tested for the noninferiority of capecitabine as compared with standard chemotherapy in women with breast cancer who were 65 years of age or older.
We randomly assigned patients with stage I, II, IIIA, or IIIB breast cancer to standard chemotherapy (either cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil or cyclophosphamide plus doxorubicin) or capecitabine. Endocrine therapy was recommended after chemotherapy in patients with hormone-receptor–positive tumors. A Bayesian statistical design was used with a range in sample size from 600 to 1800 patients. The primary end point was relapse-free survival.
When the 600th patient was enrolled, the probability that, with longer follow-up, capecitabine therapy was highly likely to be inferior to standard chemotherapy met a prescribed level, and enrollment was discontinued. After an additional year of follow-up, the hazard ratio for disease recurrence or death in the capecitabine group was 2.09 (95% confidence interval, 1.38 to 3.17; P<0.001). Patients who were randomly assigned to capecitabine were twice as likely to have a relapse and almost twice as likely to die as patients who were randomly assigned to standard chemotherapy (P = 0.02). At 3 years, the rate of relapse-free survival was 68% in the capecitabine group versus 85% in the standard-chemotherapy group, and the overall survival rate was 86% versus 91%. Two patients in the capecitabine group died of treatment-related complications; as compared with patients receiving capecitabine, twice as many patients receiving standard chemotherapy had moderate-to-severe toxic effects (64% vs. 33%).
Standard adjuvant chemotherapy is superior to capecitabine in patients with early-stage breast cancer who are 65 years of age or older. ( number, NCT00024102.)
PMCID: PMC3082436  PMID: 19439741
8.  Interaction of standardized mistletoe (Viscum album) extracts with chemotherapeutic drugs regarding cytostatic and cytotoxic effects in vitro 
Given the importance of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to cancer patients, there is an increasing need to learn more about possible interactions between CAM and anticancer drugs. Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) belongs to the medicinal herbs that are used as supportive care during chemotherapy. In the in vitro study presented here the effect of standardized mistletoe preparations on the cytostatic and cytotoxic activity of several common conventional chemotherapeutic drugs was investigated using different cancer cell lines.
Human breast carcinoma cell lines HCC1937 and HCC1143 were treated with doxorubicin hydrochloride, pancreas adenocarcinoma cell line PA-TU-8902 with gemcitabine hydrochloride, prostate carcinoma cell line DU145 with docetaxel and mitoxantrone hydrochloride and lung carcinoma cell line NCI-H460 was treated with docetaxel and cisplatin. Each dose of the respective chemotherapeutic drug was combined with Viscum album extract (VAE) in clinically relevant concentrations and proliferation and apoptosis were measured.
VAE did not inhibit chemotherapy induced cytostasis and cytotoxicity in any of our experimental settings. At higher concentrations VAE showed an additive inhibitory effect.
Our in vitro results suggest that no risk of safety by herb drug interactions has to be expected from the exposition of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs and VAE simultaneously.
PMCID: PMC3893555  PMID: 24397864
Mistletoe (Viscum album L.); Iscador; Chemotherapy; Drug interactions; Cytostasis; Cytotoxicity
9.  Estimation of the cost of treatment by chemotherapy for early breast cancer in Morocco 
Breast cancer is the first cancer in women both in incidence and mortality. The treatment of breast cancer benefited from the progress of chemotherapy and targeted therapies, but there was a parallel increase in treatment costs. Despite a relatively high incidence of many sites of cancer, so far, there is no national register for this disease in Morocco.
The main goal of this paper is to estimate the total cost of chemotherapy in the early stages of breast cancer due to its frequency and the chances of patients being cured. This study provides health decision-makers with a first estimate of costs and the opportunity to achieve the optimal use of available data to estimate the needs of antimitotics and trastuzumab in Morocco.
We start by evaluating the individual cost according to the therapeutic sub-groups, namely:
1. Patients needing chemotherapy with only anthracycline-based therapy.
2. Patients needing chemotherapy with both anthracycline and taxane but without trastuzumab.
3. Patients needing trastuzumab in addition to chemotherapy.
For each sub-group, the protocol of treatment is described, and the individual costs per unit, and for the whole cycle, are evaluated.
Then we estimate the number of women suffering from breast cancer on the basis of two data bases available in Morocco.
Finally, we calculate the total annual cost of treatment of breast cancer in Morocco.
The total cost of breast cancer in Morocco is given in Moroccan dirhams (MAD), the US dollar at the current exchange rate (MAD 10 = USD 1.30) and in international dollars or purchasing power parity (MAD 10 = PPP 1.95).
The cost of a therapy with trastuzumab is 8.4 times the cost of a sequential chemotherapy combining anthracycline and taxane, and nearly 60 times the cost of chemotherapy based on anthracycline alone.
Globally, between USD 13.3 million and USD 28.6 million need to be devoted every year by the Moroccan health authorities to treat women with localized breast cancer in keeping with international recommendations.
According to our estimation methods, the complete cost of adjuvant chemotherapy including trastuzumab will range from 1.3 to 2.4% of the global budget of the Moroccan Health Department (MAD 9.8 billion or USD 1.274 billion). Unfortunately, only one-third of the Moroccan population has healthcare insurance whereas for each patient the treatment with chemotherapy alone costs 1.15 times the annual minimum income (MAD 23,710 or USD 3,082), and treatment requiring both chemotherapy and trastuzumab costs 9.76 times the annual minimum income. For the tumour over expressing HER2Neu, we need to treat 25 women in order to save (cure) one woman: the calculated cost for one life saved is USD 663,000. The question is, is it cost-effective for an emerging country?
In this paper we aimed at evaluating the total cost of chemotherapy in the early stages of breast cancer in order to provide health decision-makers with a first estimation and a good opportunity for the optimal use of available data for the needs of antimitotics and trastuzumab in Morocco. Different protocols were considered and the individual cost of the whole treatment was given according to therapies using anthracycline alone, sequential chemotherapy combining anthracycline and taxane, and sequential chemotherapy with trastuzumab. According to our estimations, Moroccan health authorities need to devote between USD 13.3 million and USD 28.6 million every year in order to treat women suffering from localized breast cancer in ways consistent with international recommended standards.
PMCID: PMC2942794  PMID: 20828417
10.  Viscum album L. extracts in breast and gynaecological cancers: a systematic review of clinical and preclinical research 
Viscum album L. extracts (VAE, European mistletoe) are a widely used medicinal plant extract in gynaecological and breast-cancer treatment.
Systematic review to evaluate clinical studies and preclinical research on the therapeutic effectiveness and biological effects of VAE on gynaecological and breast cancer. Search of databases, reference lists and expert consultations. Criteria-based assessment of methodological study quality.
19 randomized (RCT), 16 non-randomized (non-RCT) controlled studies, and 11 single-arm cohort studies were identified that investigated VAE treatment of breast or gynaecological cancer. They included 2420, 6399 and 1130 patients respectively. 8 RCTs and 8 non-RCTs were embedded in the same large epidemiological cohort study. 9 RCTs and 13 non-RCTs assessed survival; 12 reported a statistically significant benefit, the others either a trend or no difference. 3 RCTs and 6 non-RCTs assessed tumour behaviour (remission or time to relapse); 3 reported statistically significant benefit, the others either a trend, no difference or mixed results. Quality of life (QoL) and tolerability of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery was assessed in 15 RCTs and 9 non-RCTs. 21 reported a statistically significant positive result, the others either a trend, no difference, or mixed results. Methodological quality of the studies differed substantially; some had major limitations, especially RCTs on survival and tumour behaviour had very small sample sizes. Some recent studies, however, especially on QoL were reasonably well conducted. Single-arm cohort studies investigated tumour behaviour, QoL, pharmacokinetics and safety of VAE. Tumour remission was observed after high dosage and local application. VAE application was well tolerated. 34 animal experiments investigated VAE and isolated or recombinant compounds in various breast and gynaecological cancer models in mice and rats. VAE showed increase of survival and tumour remission especially in mice, while application in rats as well as application of VAE compounds had mixed results. In vitro VAE and its compounds have strong cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
VAE shows some positive effects in breast and gynaecological cancer. More research into clinical efficacy is warranted.
PMCID: PMC2711058  PMID: 19519890
11.  Thermal boost combined with interstitial brachytherapy in breast conserving therapy – Assessment of early toxicity 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3863141  PMID: 24376963
Hyperthermia; Brachytherapy boost; Breast cancer
12.  Safety of Intravenous Application of Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) Preparations in Oncology: An Observational Study 
Background. Traditional mistletoe therapy in cancer patients involves subcutaneous applications of Viscum album L. preparations, with doses slowly increasing based on patient responses. Intravenous infusion of high doses may improve therapeutic outcomes and is becoming more common. Little is known about the safety of this “off-label” application of mistletoe. Methods. An observational study was performed within the Network Oncology. Treatment with intravenous mistletoe applications is described. The frequency of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) to intravenous mistletoe applications was calculated and compared to ADR data from a study on subcutaneous applications. Results. Of 475 cancer patients who received intravenous infusions of Helixor, Abnoba viscum, or Iscador mistletoe preparations, 22 patients (4.6%) reported 32 ADRs of mild (59.4%) or moderate severity (40.6%). No serious ADRs occurred. ADRs were more frequently reported to i.v. mistletoe administered alone (4.3%), versus prior to chemotherapy (1.6%). ADR frequency differed with respect to preparation type, with Iscador preparations showing a higher relative frequency, compared to Abnoba viscum and Helixor. Overall, patients were almost two times less likely to experience an ADR to intravenous compared to subcutaneous application of mistletoe. Conclusion. Intravenous mistletoe therapy was found to be safe and prospective studies for efficacy are recommended.
PMCID: PMC4052504  PMID: 24955100
13.  Exquisite Sensitivity of TP53 Mutant and Basal Breast Cancers to a Dose-Dense Epirubicin−Cyclophosphamide Regimen 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e90.
In breast cancers, only a minority of patients fully benefit from the different chemotherapy regimens currently in use. Identification of markers that could predict the response to a particular regimen would thus be critically important for patient care. In cell lines or animal models, tumor protein p53 (TP53) plays a critical role in modulating the response to genotoxic drugs. TP53 is activated in response to DNA damage and triggers either apoptosis or cell-cycle arrest, which have opposite effects on cell fate. Yet, studies linking TP53 status and chemotherapy response have so far failed to unambiguously establish this paradigm in patients. Breast cancers with a TP53 mutation were repeatedly shown to have a poor outcome, but whether this reflects poor response to treatment or greater intrinsic aggressiveness of the tumor is unknown.
Methods and Findings
In this study we analyzed 80 noninflammatory breast cancers treated by frontline (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy. Tumor diagnoses were performed on pretreatment biopsies, and the patients then received six cycles of a dose-dense regimen of 75 mg/m2 epirubicin and 1,200 mg/m2 cyclophosphamide, given every 14 days. After completion of chemotherapy, all patients underwent mastectomies, thus allowing for a reliable assessment of chemotherapy response. The pretreatment biopsy samples were used to determine the TP53 status through a highly efficient yeast functional assay and to perform RNA profiling. All 15 complete responses occurred among the 28 TP53-mutant tumors. Furthermore, among the TP53-mutant tumors, nine out of ten of the highly aggressive basal subtypes (defined by basal cytokeratin [KRT] immunohistochemical staining) experienced complete pathological responses, and only TP53 status and basal subtype were independent predictors of a complete response. Expression analysis identified many mutant TP53-associated genes, including CDC20, TTK, CDKN2A, and the stem cell gene PROM1, but failed to identify a transcriptional profile associated with complete responses among TP53 mutant tumors. In patients with unresponsive tumors, mutant TP53 status predicted significantly shorter overall survival. The 15 patients with responsive TP53-mutant tumors, however, had a favorable outcome, suggesting that this chemotherapy regimen can overcome the poor prognosis generally associated with mutant TP53 status.
This study demonstrates that, in noninflammatory breast cancers, TP53 status is a key predictive factor for response to this dose-dense epirubicin–cyclophosphamide regimen and further suggests that the basal subtype is exquisitely sensitive to this association. Given the well-established predictive value of complete responses for long-term survival and the poor prognosis of basal and TP53-mutant tumors treated with other regimens, this chemotherapy could be particularly suited for breast cancer patients with a mutant TP53, particularly those with basal features.
Hugues de The and colleagues report thatTP53 status is a predictive factor for responsiveness in breast cancers to a dose-dense epirubicin-cyclophosphamide chemotherapy regimen, and suggests that this regimen might be well suited for patientsTP53 mutant tumors.
Editors' Summary
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her life. As with other cancers, breast cancer arises when cells accumulate genetic changes (mutations) that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body. These altered cells are called malignant cells. The normal human breast contains several types of cell, any of which can become malignant. In addition, there is more than one route to malignancy—different sets of genes can be mutated. As a result, breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease that cannot be cured with a single type of treatment. Ideally, oncologists would like to know before they start treating a patient which therapeutic approach is going to be successful for that individual. Recently, researchers have begun to identify molecular changes that might eventually allow oncologists to make such rational treatment decisions. For example, laboratory studies in cell lines or animals indicate that the status of a gene called TP53 determines the chemotherapy agents (drugs that preferentially kill rapidly dividing cancer cells) to which cells respond. p53, the protein encoded by TP53, is a tumor suppressor. That is, in normal cells it prevents unregulated growth by controlling the expression of proteins involved in cell division and cell death. Consequently, p53 is often inactivated during cancer development.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although laboratory studies have linked TP53 status to chemotherapy responses, little is known about this relationship in human breast cancers. The clinical studies that have investigated whether TP53 status affects chemotherapy responses have generally found that patients whose tumors contain mutant TP53 have a poorer response to therapy and/or a shorter survival time than those whose tumors contain normal TP53. In this study, the researchers have asked whether TP53 status affects tumor responses to a dose-intense chemotherapy regimen (frequent, high doses of drugs) given to women with advanced noninflammatory breast cancer before surgery. This type of treatment is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy and is used to shrink tumors before surgery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected breast tumor samples from 80 women before starting six fortnightly cycles of chemotherapy with epirubicin and cyclophosphamide. After this, each woman had her affected breast removed and examined to see whether the chemotherapy had killed the tumor cells. The researchers determined which original tumor samples contained mutated TP53 and used a technique called microarray expression profiling to document gene expression patterns in them. Overall, 28 tumors contained mutated TP53. Strikingly, all 15 tumors that responded completely to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (no tumor cells detectable in the breast tissue after chemotherapy) contained mutated TP53. Nine of these responsive tumors were basal-cell–like breast tumors, a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer; only one basal-cell–like, TP53-mutated tumor did not respond to chemotherapy. Patients whose tumors were unresponsive to the neoadjuvant chemotherapy but contained mutated TP53 tended to die sooner than those whose tumors contained normal TP53 or those with chemotherapy-responsive TP53-mutated tumors. Finally, expression profiling identified changes in the expression of many p53-regulated genes, but did not identify an expression profile in the TP53-mutated tumors unique to those that responded to chemotherapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that noninflammatory breast tumors containing mutant TP53—in particular, basal-cell–like tumors—are very sensitive to dose-dense epirubicin and cyclophosphamide chemotherapy. Intensive regimens of this type have rarely been used in previous studies, which might explain the apparent contradiction between these results and the generally poor response to chemotherapy of TP53-mutated breast tumors. More tumors now need to be examined to confirm the association between complete response, TP53 status and basal-cell–like tumors. In addition, although complete tumor responses generally predict good overall survival, longer survival studies than those reported here are needed to show that the tumor response to this particular neoadjuvant chemotherapy regimen translates into improved overall survival. If the present results can be confirmed and extended, dose-dense neoadjuvant chemotherapy with epirubicin and cyclophosphamide could considerably improve the outlook for patients with aggressive TP53-mutant, basal-cell–like breast tumors.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides patient and physician information on breast cancer and general information on understanding cancer
Cancer Research UK offers patient information on cancer and breast cancer
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on breast cancer
Emory University's CancerQuest discusses the biology of cancer, including the role of tumor suppressor proteins
Wikipedia has pages on p53 (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
PMCID: PMC1831731  PMID: 17388661
14.  Comparisons between different polychemotherapy regimens for early breast cancer: meta-analyses of long-term outcome among 100 000 women in 123 randomised trials 
Lancet  2012;379(9814):432-444.
Moderate differences in efficacy between adjuvant chemotherapy regimens for breast cancer are plausible, and could affect treatment choices. We sought any such differences.
We undertook individual-patient-data meta-analyses of the randomised trials comparing: any taxane-plus-anthracycline-based regimen versus the same, or more, non-taxane chemotherapy (n=44 000); one anthracycline-based regimen versus another (n=7000) or versus cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil (CMF; n=18 000); and polychemotherapy versus no chemotherapy (n=32 000). The scheduled dosages of these three drugs and of the anthracyclines doxorubicin (A) and epirubicin (E) were used to define standard CMF, standard 4AC, and CAF and CEF. Log-rank breast cancer mortality rate ratios (RRs) are reported.
In trials adding four separate cycles of a taxane to a fixed anthracycline-based control regimen, extending treatment duration, breast cancer mortality was reduced (RR 0·86, SE 0·04, two-sided significance [2p]=0·0005). In trials with four such extra cycles of a taxane counterbalanced in controls by extra cycles of other cytotoxic drugs, roughly doubling non-taxane dosage, there was no significant difference (RR 0·94, SE 0·06, 2p=0·33). Trials with CMF-treated controls showed that standard 4AC and standard CMF were equivalent (RR 0·98, SE 0·05, 2p=0·67), but that anthracycline-based regimens with substantially higher cumulative dosage than standard 4AC (eg, CAF or CEF) were superior to standard CMF (RR 0·78, SE 0·06, 2p=0·0004). Trials versus no chemotherapy also suggested greater mortality reductions with CAF (RR 0·64, SE 0·09, 2p<0·0001) than with standard 4AC (RR 0·78, SE 0·09, 2p=0·01) or standard CMF (RR 0·76, SE 0·05, 2p<0·0001). In all meta-analyses involving taxane-based or anthracycline-based regimens, proportional risk reductions were little affected by age, nodal status, tumour diameter or differentiation (moderate or poor; few were well differentiated), oestrogen receptor status, or tamoxifen use. Hence, largely independently of age (up to at least 70 years) or the tumour characteristics currently available to us for the patients selected to be in these trials, some taxane-plus-anthracycline-based or higher-cumulative-dosage anthracycline-based regimens (not requiring stem cells) reduced breast cancer mortality by, on average, about one-third. 10-year overall mortality differences paralleled breast cancer mortality differences, despite taxane, anthracycline, and other toxicities.
10-year gains from a one-third breast cancer mortality reduction depend on absolute risks without chemotherapy (which, for oestrogen-receptor-positive disease, are the risks remaining with appropriate endocrine therapy). Low absolute risk implies low absolute benefit, but information was lacking about tumour gene expression markers or quantitative immunohistochemistry that might help to predict risk, chemosensitivity, or both.
Cancer Research UK; British Heart Foundation; UK Medical Research Council.
PMCID: PMC3273723  PMID: 22152853
15.  Differential Expression of Cytokines in Breast Cancer Patients Receiving Different Chemotherapies: Implications for Cognitive Impairment Research 
Supportive Care in Cancer  2011;20(4):831-839.
In many neurodegenerative diseases abnormal concentrations of cytokines and chemokines affect neuronal integrity leading to cognitive impairments; altered levels of these molecules could also play a role in cancer- and cancer-treatment related cognitive difficulties. Patients receiving doxorubicin-based (with cyclophosphamide, or cyclophosphamide plus fluorouracil; AC/CAF) chemotherapy or cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil (CMF) chemotherapy report experiencing cognitive difficulties; because these regimens work by different modes of action, it is possible that they differentially affect cytokine levels.
This secondary study examined the relationships between cytokine levels (i.e., IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1) and type of chemotherapy among 54 early-stage breast cancer patients receiving AC/CAF or CMF. Cytokine levels were assessed at two time-points: prior to on-study chemotherapy cycle 2 (Cycle 2) and after 2 consecutive chemotherapy cycles (prior to on-study cycle 4; Cycle 4).
Main Results
Analyses of variance using Cycle 2 levels as a covariate (ANCOVA) were used to determine differences between chemotherapy groups. Levels of IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1 increased in the AC/CAF group and decreased in the CMF group; the only significant between-group change was in IL-6 (p<0.05).
These preliminary results suggest that AC/CAF chemotherapy is more cytokine inducing than CMF; future studies should explore the distinct inflammatory responses elicited by different chemotherapy regimens.
PMCID: PMC3218259  PMID: 21533812
chemotherapy; cytokines; cancer; cognitive impairment; immune response
16.  Concurrent chemoradiotherapy in adjuvant treatment of breast cancer 
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.
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC2679760  PMID: 19351405
17.  Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenetics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: or at
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based Analysis
The Medical Advisory Secretariat undertook a systematic review of the evidence on the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation testing compared with no EGFR mutation testing to predict response to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), gefitinib (Iressa®) or erlotinib (Tarceva®) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
With an estimated 7,800 new cases and 7,000 deaths last year, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Ontario. Those with unresectable or advanced disease are commonly treated with concurrent chemoradiation or platinum-based combination chemotherapy. Although response rates to cytotoxic chemotherapy for advanced NSCLC are approximately 30 to 40%, all patients eventually develop resistance and have a median survival of only 8 to 10 months. Treatment for refractory or relapsed disease includes single-agent treatment with docetaxel, pemetrexed or EGFR-targeting TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib). TKIs disrupt EGFR signaling by competing with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for the binding sites at the tyrosine kinase (TK) domain, thus inhibiting the phosphorylation and activation of EGFRs and the downstream signaling network. Gefitinib and erlotinib have been shown to be either non-inferior or superior to chemotherapy in the first- or second-line setting (gefitinib), or superior to placebo in the second- or third-line setting (erlotinib).
Certain patient characteristics (adenocarcinoma, non-smoking history, Asian ethnicity, female gender) predict for better survival benefit and response to therapy with TKIs. In addition, the current body of evidence shows that somatic mutations in the EGFR gene are the most robust biomarkers for EGFR-targeting therapy selection. Drugs used in this therapy, however, can be costly, up to C$ 2000 to C$ 3000 per month, and they have only approximately a 10% chance of benefiting unselected patients. For these reasons, the predictive value of EGFR mutation testing for TKIs in patients with advanced NSCLC needs to be determined.
The Technology: EGFR mutation testing
The EGFR gene sequencing by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays is the most widely used method for EGFR mutation testing. PCR assays can be performed at pathology laboratories across Ontario. According to experts in the province, sequencing is not currently done in Ontario due to lack of adequate measurement sensitivity. A variety of new methods have been introduced to increase the measurement sensitivity of the mutation assay. Some technologies such as single-stranded conformational polymorphism, denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography, and high-resolution melting analysis have the advantage of facilitating rapid mutation screening of large numbers of samples with high measurement sensitivity but require direct sequencing to confirm the identity of the detected mutations. Other techniques have been developed for the simple, but highly sensitive detection of specific EGFR mutations, such as the amplification refractory mutations system (ARMS) and the peptide nucleic acid-locked PCR clamping. Others selectively digest wild-type DNA templates with restriction endonucleases to enrich mutant alleles by PCR. Experts in the province of Ontario have commented that currently PCR fragment analysis for deletion and point mutation conducts in Ontario, with measurement sensitivity of 1% to 5%.
Research Questions
In patients with locally-advanced or metastatic NSCLC, what is the clinical effectiveness of EGFR mutation testing for prediction of response to treatment with TKIs (gefitinib, erlotinib) in terms of progression-free survival (PFS), objective response rates (ORR), overall survival (OS), and quality of life (QoL)?
What is the impact of EGFR mutation testing on overall clinical decision-making for patients with advanced or metastatic NSCLC?
What is the cost-effectiveness of EGFR mutation testing in selecting patients with advanced NSCLC for treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib in the first-line setting?
What is the budget impact of EGFR mutation testing in selecting patients with advanced NSCLC for treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib in the second- or third-line setting?
A literature search was performed on March 9, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, OVID EMBASE, Wiley Cochrane, CINAHL, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination/International Agency for Health Technology Assessment for studies published from January 1, 2004 until February 28, 2010 using the following terms:
Non-Small-Cell Lung Carcinoma
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor
An automatic literature update program also extracted all papers published from February 2010 until August 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, and then a group of epidemiologists, until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
The inclusion criteria were as follows:
Population: patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC (stage IIIB or IV)
Procedure: EGFR mutation testing before treatment with gefitinib or erlotinib
Language: publication in English
Published health technology assessments, guidelines, and peer-reviewed literature (abstracts, full text, conference abstract)
Outcomes: progression-free survival (PFS), Objective response rate (ORR), overall survival (OS), quality of life (QoL).
The exclusion criteria were as follows:
Studies lacking outcomes specific to those of interest
Studies focused on erlotinib maintenance therapy
Studies focused on gefitinib or erlotinib use in combination with cytotoxic agents or any other drug
Grey literature, where relevant, was also reviewed.
Outcomes of Interest
ORR determined by means of the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST)
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the Phase II trials and observational studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Since the last published health technology assessment by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in 2007 there have been a number of phase III trials which provide evidence of predictive value of EGFR mutation testing in patients who were treated with gefitinib compared to chemotherapy in the first- or second-line setting. The Iressa Pan Asian Study (IPASS) trial showed the superiority of gefitinib in terms of PFS in patients with EGFR mutations versus patients with wild-type EGFR (Hazard ratio [HR], 0.48, 95%CI; 0.36-0.64 versus HR, 2.85; 95%CI, 2.05-3.98). Moreover, there was a statistically significant increased ORR in patients who received gefitinib and had EGFR mutations compared to patients with wild-type EGFR (71% versus 1%). The First-SIGNAL trial in patients with similar clinical characteristics as IPASS as well as the NEJ002 and WJTOG3405 trials that included only patients with EGFR mutations, provide confirmation that gefitinib is superior to chemotherapy in terms of improved PFS or higher ORR in patients with EGFR mutations. The INTEREST trial further indicated that patients with EGFR mutations had prolonged PFS and higher ORR when treated with gefitinib compared with docetaxel.
In contrast, there is still a paucity of strong evidence regarding the predictive value of EGFR mutation testing for response to erlotinib in the second- or third-line setting. The BR.21 trial randomized 731 patients with NSCLC who were refractory or intolerant to prior first- or second-line chemotherapy to receive erlotinib or placebo. While the HR of 0.61 (95%CI, 0.51-0.74) favored erlotinib in the overall population, this was not a significant in the subsequent retrospective subgroup analysis. A retrospective evaluation of 116 of the BR.21 tumor samples demonstrated that patients with EGFR mutations had significantly higher ORRs when treated with erlotinib compared with placebo (27% versus 7%; P=0.03). However, erlotinib did not confer a significant survival benefit compared with placebo in patients with EGFR mutations (HR, 0.55; 95%CI, 0.25-1.19) versus wild-type (HR, 0.74; 95%CI, 0.52-1.05). The interaction between EGFR mutation status and erlotinib use was not significant (P=0.47). The lack of significance could be attributable to a type II error since there was a low sample size that was available for subgroup analysis.
A series of phase II studies have examined the clinical effectiveness of erlotinib in patients known to have EGFR mutations. Evidence from these studies has consistently shown that erlotinib yields a very high ORR (typically 70% vs. 4%) and a prolonged PFS (9 months vs. 2 months) in patients with EGFR mutations compared with patients with wild-type EGFR. Although having a prolonged PFS and higher respond in EGFR mutated patients might be due to a better prognostic profile regardless of the treatment received. In the absence of a comparative treatment or placebo control group, it is difficult to determine if the observed differences in survival benefit in patients with EGFR mutation is attributed to prognostic or predictive value of EGFR mutation status.
Based on moderate quality of evidence, patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC with adenocarcinoma histology being treated with gefitinib in the first-line setting are highly likely to benefit from gefitinib if they have EGFR mutations compared to those with wild-type EGFR. This advantage is reflected in improved PFS, ORR and QoL in patients with EGFR mutation who are being treated with gefitinib relative to patients treated with chemotherapy.
Based on low quality of evidence, in patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC who are being treated with erlotinib, the identification of EGFR mutation status selects those who are most likely to benefit from erlotinib relative to patients treated with placebo in the second or third-line setting.
PMCID: PMC3377519  PMID: 23074402
18.  A Mitochondrial Target Sequence Polymorphism in MnSOD Predicts Inferior Survival in Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Cyclophosphamide 
Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) protects against oxidative damage and modulates the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs. A functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in codon 16 of SOD2 (rs4880), which encodes MnSOD, results in a substitution of valine by alanine (Val16Ala). We hypothesized that this SNP affects breast cancer survival of patients receiving chemotherapy.
Experimental Design
Two patient populations from the United States (n=248) and Norway (n=340) were genotyped for Val16Ala. Kaplan-Meier survival and Cox Proportional-Hazards regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between Val16Ala and disease-specific survival.
Val16Ala was significantly associated with breast cancer outcome in both patient populations. Carriers of the Ala allele had inferior survival rates in the multivariate analysis [Hazard ratio (HR) = 2.44; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.11–5.37 in United States cohort and 1.91; 95% CI, 1.06–3.45 in Norway cohort for Ala/Ala versus Val/Val]. In an analysis of the combined cohorts, this association was significant for patients receiving adjuvant therapy (HR = 2.47; 95% CI, 1.46–4.19), but not for patients without it (HR = 1.47; 95% CI, 0.57–3.74). After further stratification by type of chemotherapy, the effect of the Ala allele was mostly restricted to cyclophosphamide-containing chemotherapy regimens (HR = 22.0; 95% CI, 5.22–92.9; Ala/Ala versus Val/Val).
The Val16Ala polymorphism affects survival of patients receiving cyclophosphamide-containing chemotherapy. The findings provide the first evidence pointing toward a mechanism for cyclophosphamide-resistance in breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2697269  PMID: 19509150
19.  Acute pneumonitis consequent on pleurodesis with Viscum album extract: severe chest images but benign clinical course 
Chemical pleurodesis is widely recommended in the treatment of pulmonary air leak of different etiologies as well as malignant pleural effusions and chylothorax. Conventional chemical pleurodesis using erythromycin, tetracycline, hydrophilic fumed silica, autologous blood and talc slurry has been standardized, and its complications, including high fever, intractable chest pain, and acute lung injury, seem to be frequent. Viscum album extract is a new chemical agent for pleurodesis, and only a few studies have reported outcomes of such chemical pleurodesis in the treatment of malignant pleural effusion. Moreover, the complications resulting from pleurodesis using Viscum album extract are very rare, and acute pneumonitis has not been reported. in this paper we report the first case of acute pneumonitis after pleurodesis using Viscum album extract in a 58-year-old man who had prolonged air leaks after a left upper lingularsegmentectomy for metastatic lung cancer. We performed repeated pleurodesis four times with 2 to 4 days intervals. While the patient had no symptoms of pneumonia, such as cough, sputum, chilling, and fatigue, a follow-up chest X-ray revealed increasing peribronchial consolidations and infiltrations in the left upper lobe. A chest tomography showed extensive parenchymal consolidations and ground-glass appearances in the left lungs, representing pneumonia with acute lung injury. The acute pneumonitis was spontaneously resolved with supportive care, and the patient was discharged ten days after the development of pneumonitis. We think that pleurodesis with Viscum album extract is effective, but repeated pleurodesis should be avoided for possible onset of acute pneumonitis.
PMCID: PMC4333894
Computed tomography; Lung infection; Pneumothorax; Segmentectomy
20.  DEAR1 Is a Dominant Regulator of Acinar Morphogenesis and an Independent Predictor of Local Recurrence-Free Survival in Early-Onset Breast Cancer 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000068.
Ann Killary and colleagues describe a new gene that is genetically altered in breast tumors, and that may provide a new breast cancer prognostic marker.
Breast cancer in young women tends to have a natural history of aggressive disease for which rates of recurrence are higher than in breast cancers detected later in life. Little is known about the genetic pathways that underlie early-onset breast cancer. Here we report the discovery of DEAR1 (ductal epithelium–associated RING Chromosome 1), a novel gene encoding a member of the TRIM (tripartite motif) subfamily of RING finger proteins, and provide evidence for its role as a dominant regulator of acinar morphogenesis in the mammary gland and as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival in early-onset breast cancer.
Methods and Findings
Suppression subtractive hybridization identified DEAR1 as a novel gene mapping to a region of high-frequency loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in a number of histologically diverse human cancers within Chromosome 1p35.1. In the breast epithelium, DEAR1 expression is limited to the ductal and glandular epithelium and is down-regulated in transition to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early histologic stage in breast tumorigenesis. DEAR1 missense mutations and homozygous deletion (HD) were discovered in breast cancer cell lines and tumor samples. Introduction of the DEAR1 wild type and not the missense mutant alleles to complement a mutation in a breast cancer cell line, derived from a 36-year-old female with invasive breast cancer, initiated acinar morphogenesis in three-dimensional (3D) basement membrane culture and restored tissue architecture reminiscent of normal acinar structures in the mammary gland in vivo. Stable knockdown of DEAR1 in immortalized human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) recapitulated the growth in 3D culture of breast cancer cell lines containing mutated DEAR1, in that shDEAR1 clones demonstrated disruption of tissue architecture, loss of apical basal polarity, diffuse apoptosis, and failure of lumen formation. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining of a tissue microarray from a cohort of 123 young female breast cancer patients with a 20-year follow-up indicated that in early-onset breast cancer, DEAR1 expression serves as an independent predictor of local recurrence-free survival and correlates significantly with strong family history of breast cancer and the triple-negative phenotype (ER−, PR−, HER-2−) of breast cancers with poor prognosis.
Our data provide compelling evidence for the genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 in breast cancer, for the functional role of DEAR1 in the dominant regulation of acinar morphogenesis in 3D culture, and for the potential utility of an immunohistochemical assay for DEAR1 expression as an independent prognostic marker for stratification of early-onset disease.
Editors' Summary
Each year, more than one million women discover that they have breast cancer. This type of cancer begins when cells in the breast that line the milk-producing glands or the tubes that take the milk to the nipples (glandular and ductal epithelial cells, respectively) acquire genetic changes that allow them to grow uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. 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 or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make patients very ill. Generally speaking, 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?
Although breast cancer is usually diagnosed in women in their 50s or 60s, some women develop breast cancer much earlier. In these women, the disease is often very aggressive. Compared to older women, young women with breast cancer have a lower overall survival rate and their cancer is more likely to recur locally or to metastasize. It would be useful to be able to recognize those younger women at the greatest risk of cancer recurrence so that they could be offered intensive surveillance and adjuvant therapy; those women at a lower risk could have gentler treatments. To achieve this type of “stratification,” the genetic changes that underlie breast cancer in young women need to be identified. In this study, the researchers discover a gene that is genetically altered (by mutations or deletion) in early-onset breast cancer and then investigate whether its expression can predict outcomes in women with this disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “suppression subtractive hybridization” to identify a new gene in a region of human Chromosome 1 where loss of heterozygosity (LOH; a genetic alteration associated with cancer development) frequently occurs. They called the gene DEAR1 (ductal epithelium-associated RING Chromosome 1) to indicate that it is expressed in ductal and glandular epithelial cells and encodes a “RING finger” protein (specifically, a subtype called a TRIM protein; RING finger proteins such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been implicated in early cancer development and in a large fraction of inherited breast cancers). DEAR1 expression was reduced or lost in several ductal carcinomas in situ (a local abnormality that can develop into breast cancer) and advanced breast cancers, the researchers report. Furthermore, many breast tumors carried DEAR1 missense mutations (genetic changes that interfere with the normal function of the DEAR1 protein) or had lost both copies of DEAR1 (the human genome contains two copies of most genes). To determine the function of DEAR1, the researchers replaced a normal copy of DEAR1 into a breast cancer cell that had a mutation in DEAR1. They then examined the growth of these genetically manipulated cells in special three-dimensional cultures. The breast cancer cells without DEAR1 grew rapidly without an organized structure while the breast cancer cells containing the introduced copy of DEAR1 formed structures that resembled normal breast acini (sac-like structures that secrete milk). In normal human mammary epithelial cells, the researchers silenced DEAR1 expression and also showed that without DEAR1, the normal mammary cells lost their ability to form proper acini. Finally, the researchers report that DEAR1 expression (detected “immunohistochemically”) was frequently lost in women who had had early-onset breast cancer and that the loss of DEAR1 expression correlated with reduced local recurrence-free survival, a strong family history of breast cancer and with a breast cancer subtype that has a poor outcome.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that genetic alteration and loss of expression of DEAR1 are common in breast cancer. Although laboratory experiments may not necessarily reflect what happens in people, the results from the three-dimensional culture of breast epithelial cells suggest that DEAR1 may regulate the normal acinar structure of the breast. Consequently, loss of DEAR1 expression could be an early event in breast cancer development. Most importantly, the correlation between DEAR1 expression and both local recurrence in early-onset breast cancer and a breast cancer subtype with a poor outcome suggests that it might be possible to use DEAR1 expression to identify women with early-onset breast cancer who have an increased risk of local recurrence so that they get the most appropriate treatment for their cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Senthil Muthuswamy
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, including information on genetic alterations in breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; MedlinePlus also provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
The UK charities Cancerbackup (now merged with MacMillan Cancer Support) and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
PMCID: PMC2673042  PMID: 19536326
21.  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.
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).
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2958885  PMID: 20920323
22.  Mammostrat® as a tool to stratify breast cancer patients at risk of recurrence during endocrine therapy 
Patients with early-stage breast cancer, treated with endocrine therapy, have approximately 90% 5-year disease-free survival. However, for patients at higher risk of relapse despite endocrine therapy, additional adjuvant therapy, such as chemotherapy, may be indicated. The challenge is to prospectively identify such patients. The Mammostrat® test uses five immunohistochemical markers to stratify patients on tamoxifen therapy into risk groups to inform treatment decisions. We tested the efficacy of this panel in a mixed population of cases treated in a single center with breast-conserving surgery and long-term follow-up.
Tissue microarrays from a consecutive series (1981 to 1998) of 1,812 women managed by wide local excision and postoperative radiotherapy were collected following appropriate ethical review. Of 1,390 cases stained, 197 received no adjuvant hormonal or chemotherapy, 1,044 received tamoxifen only, and 149 received a combination of hormonal therapy and chemotherapy. Median age at diagnosis was 57, 71% were postmenopausal, 23.9% were node-positive and median tumor size was 1.5 cm. Samples were stained using triplicate 0.6 mm2 tissue microarray cores, and positivity for p53, HTF9C, CEACAM5, NDRG1 and SLC7A5 was assessed. Each case was assigned a Mammostrat® risk score, and distant recurrence-free survival (DRFS), relapse-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) were analyzed by marker positivity and risk score.
Increased Mammostrat® scores were significantly associated with reduced DRFS, RFS and OS in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer (P < 0.00001). In multivariate analyses the risk score was independent of conventional risk factors for DRFS, RFS and OS (P < 0.05). In node-negative, tamoxifen-treated patients, 10-year recurrence rates were 7.6 ± 1.5% in the low-risk group versus 20.0 ± 4.4% in the high-risk group. Further, exploratory analyses revealed associations with outcome in both ER-negative and untreated patients.
This is the fifth independent study providing evidence that Mammostrat® can act as an independent prognostic tool for ER-positive, tamoxifen-treated breast cancer. In addition, this study revealed for the first time a possible association with outcome regardless of node status and ER-negative tumors. When viewed in the context of previous results, these data provide further support for this antibody panel as an aid to patient management in early-stage breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2949634  PMID: 20615243
23.  Subtyping of Breast Cancer by Immunohistochemistry to Investigate a Relationship between Subtype and Short and Long Term Survival: A Collaborative Analysis of Data for 10,159 Cases from 12 Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000279.
Paul Pharoah and colleagues evaluate the prognostic significance of immunohistochemical subtype classification in more than 10,000 breast cancer cases with early disease, and examine the influence of a patient's survival time on the prediction of future survival.
Immunohistochemical markers are often used to classify breast cancer into subtypes that are biologically distinct and behave differently. The aim of this study was to estimate mortality for patients with the major subtypes of breast cancer as classified using five immunohistochemical markers, to investigate patterns of mortality over time, and to test for heterogeneity by subtype.
Methods and Findings
We pooled data from more than 10,000 cases of invasive breast cancer from 12 studies that had collected information on hormone receptor status, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) status, and at least one basal marker (cytokeratin [CK]5/6 or epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR]) together with survival time data. Tumours were classified as luminal and nonluminal tumours according to hormone receptor expression. These two groups were further subdivided according to expression of HER2, and finally, the luminal and nonluminal HER2-negative tumours were categorised according to expression of basal markers. Changes in mortality rates over time differed by subtype. In women with luminal HER2-negative subtypes, mortality rates were constant over time, whereas mortality rates associated with the luminal HER2-positive and nonluminal subtypes tended to peak within 5 y of diagnosis and then decline over time. In the first 5 y after diagnosis the nonluminal tumours were associated with a poorer prognosis, but over longer follow-up times the prognosis was poorer in the luminal subtypes, with the worst prognosis at 15 y being in the luminal HER2-positive tumours. Basal marker expression distinguished the HER2-negative luminal and nonluminal tumours into different subtypes. These patterns were independent of any systemic adjuvant therapy.
The six subtypes of breast cancer defined by expression of five markers show distinct behaviours with important differences in short term and long term prognosis. Application of these markers in the clinical setting could have the potential to improve the targeting of adjuvant chemotherapy to those most likely to benefit. The different patterns of mortality over time also suggest important biological differences between the subtypes that may result in differences in response to specific therapies, and that stratification of breast cancers by clinically relevant subtypes in clinical trials is urgently required.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Each year, more than one million women discover they have breast cancer. Breast cancer begins when cells in the breast's milk-producing glands or in the tubes (ducts) that take milk to the nipples acquire genetic changes that allow them to divide uncontrollably and to move around the body (metastasize). The uncontrolled cell division leads to the formation of a lump that can be detected by mammography (a breast X-ray) or by manual breast examination. 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 or chemotherapy. These “adjuvant” therapies are designed to kill any remaining cancer cells but can make women very ill. Generally speaking, the outlook (prognosis) for women with breast cancer is good. In the United States, for example, nearly 90% of affected women are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because there are several types of cells in the milk ducts and glands, there are several subtypes of breast cancer. Luminal tumors, for example, begin in the cells that line the ducts and glands and usually grow slowly; basal-type tumors arise in deeper layers of the ducts and glands and tend to grow quickly. Clinicians need to distinguish between different breast cancer subtypes so that they can give women a realistic prognosis and can give adjuvant treatments to those women who are most likely to benefit. One way to distinguish between different subtypes is to stain breast cancer samples using antibodies (immune system proteins) that recognize particular proteins (antigens). This “immunohistochemical” approach can identify several breast cancer subtypes but its prognostic value and the best way to classify breast tumors remains unclear. In this study, the researchers investigate the survival over time of women with six major subtypes of breast cancer classified using five immunohistochemical markers: the estrogen receptor and the progesterone receptor (two hormone receptors expressed by luminal cells), the human epidermal growth factors receptor-2 (HER2, a protein marker used to select specific adjuvant therapies), and CK5/6 and EGFR (proteins expressed by basal cells).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pooled data on survival time and on the expression of the five immunohistochemical markers from more than 10,000 cases of breast cancer from 12 studies. They then divided the tumors into six subtypes on the basis of their marker expression: luminal (hormone receptor-positive), HER2-positive tumors; luminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-positive tumors; luminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-negative tumors; nonluminal (hormone receptor-negative), HER2-positive tumors; nonluminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-positive tumors; and nonluminal, HER2-negative, basal marker-negative tumors. In the first five years after diagnosis, women with nonluminal tumor subtypes had the worst prognosis but at 15 years after diagnosis, women with luminal HER2-positive tumors had the worst prognosis. Furthermore, death rates (the percentage of affected women dying each year) differed by subtype over time. Thus, women with the two luminal HER2-negative subtypes were as likely to die soon after diagnosis as at later times whereas the death rates associated with nonluminal subtypes peaked within five years of diagnosis and then declined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings indicate that the six subtypes of breast cancer defined by the expression of five immunohistochemical markers have distinct biological characteristics that are associated with important differences in short-term and long-term outcomes. Because different laboratories measured the immunohistochemical markers using different methods, it is possible that some of the tumors included in this study were misclassified. However, the finding of clear differences in the behavior of the immunochemically classified subtypes suggests that the use of the five markers for tumor classification might be robust enough for routine clinical practice. The application of these markers in the clinical setting, suggest the researchers, could improve the targeting of adjuvant therapies to those women most likely to benefit. Furthermore, note the researchers, these findings strongly suggest that subtype-specific responses should be evaluated in future clinical trials of treatments for breast cancer.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Stefan Ambs
The US National Cancer Institute provides detailed information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
The American Cancer Society has a detailed guide to breast cancer, which includes information on the immunochemical classification of breast cancer subtypes
The UK charities MacMillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK also provide detailed information about breast cancer
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information for patients about breast cancer; Medline Plus provides links to many other breast cancer resources (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2876119  PMID: 20520800
24.  Correlation of microarray-based breast cancer molecular subtypes and clinical outcomes: implications for treatment optimization 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:143.
Optimizing treatment through microarray-based molecular subtyping is a promising method to address the problem of heterogeneity in breast cancer; however, current application is restricted to prediction of distant recurrence risk. This study investigated whether breast cancer molecular subtyping according to its global intrinsic biology could be used for treatment customization.
Gene expression profiling was conducted on fresh frozen breast cancer tissue collected from 327 patients in conjunction with thoroughly documented clinical data. A method of molecular subtyping based on 783 probe-sets was established and validated. Statistical analysis was performed to correlate molecular subtypes with survival outcome and adjuvant chemotherapy regimens. Heterogeneity of molecular subtypes within groups sharing the same distant recurrence risk predicted by genes of the Oncotype and MammaPrint predictors was studied.
We identified six molecular subtypes of breast cancer demonstrating distinctive molecular and clinical characteristics. These six subtypes showed similarities and significant differences from the Perou-Sørlie intrinsic types. Subtype I breast cancer was in concordance with chemosensitive basal-like intrinsic type. Adjuvant chemotherapy of lower intensity with CMF yielded survival outcome similar to those of CAF in this subtype. Subtype IV breast cancer was positive for ER with a full-range expression of HER2, responding poorly to CMF; however, this subtype showed excellent survival when treated with CAF. Reduced expression of a gene associated with methotrexate sensitivity in subtype IV was the likely reason for poor response to methotrexate. All subtype V breast cancer was positive for ER and had excellent long-term survival with hormonal therapy alone following surgery and/or radiation therapy. Adjuvant chemotherapy did not provide any survival benefit in early stages of subtype V patients. Subtype V was consistent with a unique subset of luminal A intrinsic type. When molecular subtypes were correlated with recurrence risk predicted by genes of Oncotype and MammaPrint predictors, a significant degree of heterogeneity within the same risk group was noted. This heterogeneity was distributed over several subtypes, suggesting that patients in the same risk groups require different treatment approaches.
Our results indicate that the molecular subtypes established in this study can be utilized for customization of breast cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3094326  PMID: 21501481
25.  Breast cancer (non-metastatic) 
Clinical Evidence  2011;2011:0102.
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).
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.
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

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