Luminal A breast cancers respond well to anti-hormonal therapy (HT), are associated with a generally favorable prognosis and constitute the majority of breast cancer subtypes. HT is the mainstay of treatment of these patients, accompanied by an acceptable profile of side effects, whereas the added benefit of chemotherapy (CHT), including anthracycline and taxane-based programs, is less clear-cut and has undergone a process of critical revision.
In the framework of the BRENDA collective, we analyzed the benefits of CHT compared to HT in 4570 luminal A patients (pts) with primary diagnosis between 2001 and 2008. The results were adjusted by nodal status, age, tumor size and grading.
There has been a progressive reduction in the use of CHT in luminal A patients during the last decade. Neither univariate nor multivariate analyses showed any statistically significant differences in relapse free survival (RFS) with the addition of CHT to adjuvant HT, independent of the nodal status, age, tumor size or grading. Even for patients with more than 3 affected lymph nodes, there was no significant difference (univariate: p = 0.865; HR 0.94; 95% CI: 0.46–1.93; multivariate: p = 0.812; HR 0.92; 95% CI: 0.45–1.88).
The addition of CHT to HT provides minimal or no clinical benefit at all to patients with luminal A breast cancer, independent of the RFS-risk. Consequently, risk estimation cannot be the initial step in the decisional process. These findings–that are in line with several publications–should encourage the critical evaluation of applying adjuvant CHT to patients with luminal A breast cancer.
Mammography and ultrasound are the gold standard imaging techniques for preoperative assessment and for monitoring the efficacy of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer. Maximum accuracy in predicting pathological tumor size non-invasively is critical for individualized therapy and surgical planning. We therefore aimed to assess the accuracy of tumor size measurement by ultrasound and mammography in a multicentered health services research study.
We retrospectively analyzed data from 6543 patients with unifocal, unilateral primary breast cancer. The maximum tumor diameter was measured by ultrasound and/or mammographic imaging. All measurements were compared to final tumor diameter determined by postoperative histopathological examination. We compared the precision of each imaging method across different patient subgroups as well as the method-specific accuracy in each patient subgroup.
Overall, the correlation with histology was 0.61 for mammography and 0.60 for ultrasound. Both correlations were higher in pT2 cancers than in pT1 and pT3. Ultrasound as well as mammography revealed a significantly higher correlation with histology in invasive ductal compared to lobular cancers (p < 0.01). For invasive lobular cancers, the mammography showed better correlation with histology than ultrasound (p = 0.01), whereas there was no such advantage for invasive ductal cancers. Ultrasound was significantly superior for HR negative cancers (p < 0.001). HER2/neu positive cancers were also more precisely assessed by ultrasound (p < 0.001). The size of HER2/neu negative cancers could be more accurately predicted by mammography (p < 0.001).
This multicentered health services research approach demonstrates that predicting tumor size by mammography and ultrasound provides accurate results. Biological tumor features do, however, affect the diagnostic precision.
Breast cancer; Ultrasound; Mammography; Tumor size; Histopathology
The development of metastases is a negative prognostic parameter for the clinical outcome of breast cancer. Bone constitutes the first site of distant metastases for many affected women. The purpose of this retrospective multicentre study was to evaluate if and how different variables such as primary tumour stage, biological and histological subtype, age at primary diagnosis, tumour size, the number of affected lymph nodes as well as grading influence the development of bone-only metastases.
This retrospective German multicentre study is based on the BRENDA collective and included 9625 patients with primary breast cancer recruited from 1992 to 2008. In this analysis, we investigated a subgroup of 226 patients with bone-only metastases. Association between bone-only relapse and clinico-pathological risk factors was assessed in multivariate models using the tree-building algorithms “exhausted CHAID (Chi-square Automatic Interaction Detectors)” and CART(Classification and Regression Tree), as well as radial basis function networks (RBF-net), feedforward multilayer perceptron networks (MLP) and logistic regression.
Multivariate analysis demonstrated that breast cancer subtypes have the strongest influence on the development of bone-only metastases (χ2 = 28). 29.9 % of patients with luminal A or luminal B (ABC-patients) and 11.4 % with triple negative BC (TNBC) or HER2-overexpressing tumours had bone-only metastases (p < 0.001). Five different mathematical models confirmed this correlation. The second important risk factor is the age at primary diagnosis. Moreover, BC subcategories influence the overall survival from date of metastatic disease of patients with bone-only metastases. Patients with bone-only metastases and TNBC (p < 0.001; HR = 7.47 (95 % CI: 3.52–15.87) or HER2 overexpressing BC (p = 0.007; HR = 3.04 (95 % CI: 1.36–6.80) have the worst outcome compared to patients with luminal A or luminal B tumours and bone-only metastases.
The bottom line of different mathematical models is the prior importance of subcategories of breast cancer and the age at primary diagnosis for the appearance of osseous metastases. The primary tumour stage, histological subtype, tumour size, the number of affected lymph nodes, grading and NPI seem to have only a minor influence on the development of bone-only metastases.
Breast cancer; Bone metastases; Skeleton; Breast cancer subtypes; BRENDA
Fear of cancer treatment can become overwhelming. It is important to understand what patients are mainly afraid of and what factors are correlated with intense fear of treatment.
Patients with primary breast cancer (n = 761) completed questionnaires about fear of treatment before surgery (t1), and before (t2) and after (t3) adjuvant treatment. Psychological comorbidity was assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire. Logistic regression identified predictors of intense fear of treatment.
Patients were most afraid of chemotherapy (mean score 3.5), and fear remained high throughout follow-up; fear of radiotherapy and of surgery was lower and decreased over time (from 2.7 to 2.2, p < 0.0001; and from 2.6 to 2.2, p < 0.0001, respectively). Patients with psychological co-morbidity (odds ratios (OR) 1.7–3.0) and those who had heard reports of negative experiences with cancer treatments from others (OR 3.8–16.2) were more likely to have intense fear of all the treatments. Patients with a previous cancer less often expressed fear of surgery (OR 0.6, 95% confidence interval 0.4–1.0).
Fear of treatment, especially of chemotherapy, is prevalent in many patients with primary breast cancer. Patients with psychological co-morbidity and those who have heard reports of negative experiences with cancer treatment are at higher risk of experiencing intense fear.
Breast neoplasms; Oncology; Prospective studies; Anxiety; Fear
The Patient's Anastrozole Compliance to Therapy (PACT) program is a large randomized study designed to assess whether the provision of educational materials (EM) could improve compliance with aromatase inhibitor therapy in postmenopausal women with early, hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.
Patients and Methods
The PACT study presented a large, homogeneous dataset. The baseline analysis included patient demographics and initial treatments and patient perceptions about treatment and quality of life.
Overall, 4,923 patients were enrolled at 109 German breast cancer centers/clinics in cooperation with 1,361 office-based gynecologists/oncologists. 4,844 women were randomized 1:1 to standard therapy (n = 2,402) or standard therapy plus EM (n = 2,442). Prior breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy had been received by 76% and 24% of the patients, respectively. Radiotherapy was scheduled for 85% of the patients, adjuvant chemotherapy for 38%. Reflecting the postmenopausal, hormone-sensitive nature of this population, only 285 patients (7%) had received neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
A comparison with epidemiological data from the West German Breast Center suggests that the patients in the PACT study are representative of a general postmenopausal early breast cancer population and that the findings may be applicable to ‘real-world’ Germany and beyond. Compliance data from PACT are eagerly anticipated.
Breast cancer; Compliance; Aromatase inhibitors; Breast-conserving surgery; Mastectomy
The objective of this prospectively randomized phase II trial (Trial registration: EUCTR2004-004007-37-DE) was to compare the clinical response of primary breast cancer patients to neoadjuvant therapy with letrozole alone (LET) or letrozole and zoledronic acid (LET + ZOL).
Patients were randomly assigned to receive either LET 2.5 mg/day (n = 79) or the combination of LET 2.5 mg/day and a total of seven infusions of ZOL 4 mg every 4 weeks (n = 89) for 6 months. Primary endpoint was clinical response rate as assessed by mammogram readings. The study was terminated prematurely due to insufficient recruitment. We report here on an exploratory analysis of this data.
Central assessment of tumor sizes during the treatment period was available for 131 patients (66 LET, 65 LET + ZOL). Clinical responses (complete or partial) were seen in 54.5% (95% CI: 41.8-66.9) of the patients in the LET arm and 69.2% (95% CI: 56.6-80.1) of those in the LET + ZOL arm (P = 0.106). A multivariate model showed an OR of 1.72 (95% CI: 0.83-3.59) for the experimental arm.
No increase in the clinical response rate was observed with the addition of ZOL to a neoadjuvant treatment regimen with LET. However a trend towards a better reponse in the LET + ZOL arm could be observed. This trend is consistent with previous studies that have investigated the addition of ZOL to chemotherapy, and it may support the evidence for a direct antitumor action of zoledronic acid.
Zoledronic acid; Neoadjuvant treatment; Breast cancer; Letrozole; Aromatase inhibitors; Bisphosphonates
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) remains a challenging topic for clinical oncologists. This study sought to evaluate TNBC versus other breast cancer subtypes with respect to survival parameters. We evaluated possible differences in survival in TNBC by age and by the extent to which evidence-based treatment guidelines were adhered.
This German retrospective multi-center cohort study included 9156 patients with primary breast cancer recruited from 1992 to 2008.
The rates of guideline adherence are significantly lower in TNBC compared to non-TNBC subtypes. These lower rates of guideline adherence can be observed in all age groups and are most pronounced in the >65 subgroup [<50 (20.9% vs. 42.0%), 50–64 (25.1% vs. 51.1%), and >65 (38.4% vs. 74.6%)]. In TNBC patients of all age groups, disease-free survival and overall survival were associated with an improvement by 100% guideline-adherent adjuvant treatment compared to non-adherence. Furthermore, TNBC patients of all ages had similar outcome parameters if 100% guideline-adherent adjuvant treatment was applied.
The rates of guideline-adherent treatment were significantly lower in TNBC, even though guideline adherence was strongly associated with improved survival. In the case of 100% guideline-adherent treatment, no difference in survival was observed over all the age groups examined, even in the group of >65-year-old TNBC patients.
Breast cancer; Guideline; Survival; Triple negative; Cohort study
The AGO-ETC trial compared 5-year relapse-free survival of intense dose-dense (IDD) sequential chemotherapy with epirubicin (E), paclitaxel (T), and cyclophosphamide (C) (IDD-ETC) every 2 weeks vs conventional scheduled epirubicin/cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel (EC→T) (every 3 weeks) as adjuvant treatment in high-risk breast cancer patients. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of epoetin alfa in a second randomization of the intense dose-dense arm.
One thousand two hundred eighty-four patients were enrolled; 658 patients were randomly assigned to the IDD-ETC treatment group. Within the IDD-ETC group, 324 patients were further randomly assigned to the epoetin alfa group, and 319 were randomly assigned to the non–erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA) control group. Primary efficacy endpoints included change in hemoglobin level from baseline to Cycle 9 and the percentage of subjects requiring red blood cell transfusion. Relapse-free survival, overall survival, and intramammary relapse were secondary endpoints estimated with Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression methods. Except for the primary hypothesis, all statistical tests were two-sided.
Epoetin alfa avoided the decrease in hemoglobin level (no decrease in the epoetin alfa group vs –2.20g/dL change for the control group; P < .001) and statistically significantly reduced the percentage of subjects requiring red blood cell transfusion (12.8% vs 28.1%; P < .0001). The incidence of thrombotic events was 7% in the epoetin alfa arm vs 3% in the control arm. After a median follow-up of 62 months, epoetin alfa treatment did not affect overall survival, relapse-free survival, or intramammary relapse.
Epoetin alfa resulted in improved hemoglobin levels and decreased transfusions without an impact on relapse-free or overall survival. However, epoetin alfa had an adverse effect, resulting in increased thrombosis.
To evaluate the outcome of frozen-thawed embryo transfer (FET) when freezing takes place at the pronuclear stage, a retrospective analysis was performed comparing spontaneous and artificial cycles.
148 women received FET in a spontaneous cycle (Group A) and 55 women received FET in an artificial cycle (Group B) induced by administering estrogen (E2) and progesterone (P). Pregnancy rates, endometrial thickness and serum levels of E2, P and luteinizing hormone (LH) were measured. Statistical analysis included the mean, the standard deviation, the Chi-squared test and the T-test.
The clinical pregnancy rate was 34.5% for Group A and 21.8% for Group B (p = 0.084), with a live birth rate of 20.9% and 12.7% respectively (p = 0.15). There was no difference in endometrial thickness or the P levels, while LH and E2 levels were significantly higher in group B (p < 0.0001).
Our retrospective study shows a trend towards higher pregnancy rates and live birth rates with the administration of FET during a spontaneous cycle compared to FET during an artificial cycle. Large randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm this trend.
Frozen-thawed embryo transfer (FET); Artificial cycle; Spontaneous cycle; Pregnancy rate
Background: Docetaxel and paclitaxel are among the most active substances for the treatment of breast cancer. As both drugs are used today in adjuvant regimens, efficacy data from pivotal trials in the metastatic setting in taxane-naive populations cannot reliably be used as references. Patients and Methods: The Taxane Re-Challenge Cohort Study identified participants from 6 prospective (neo-)adjuvant taxane-based studies with recurrent disease and collected data on their subsequent treatment. Out of 381 recurrent patients, 106 (27.8%) were re-challenged with a taxane-based treatment as first- or later-line therapy for recurrent disease. Results: Taxanes were used as first-line therapy in 74 patients and showed a response rate of 48.6% (including complete responses in 27.0%). The response rate was dependent on the disease-free interval (<1 year: 34.8%; 1-2 years: 42.9%; >2 years: 63.3%; p = 0.04) and visceral metastasis (present: 62.5%; not present 32.4%; p = 0.01). Patients without visceral metastasis and with a disease-free interval of >2 years achieved the longest overall survival. Hormone and HER2 receptor status were not predictive; however, triple-negative tumors responded in 50.0%. The overall response rate of later-line taxane-based treatment was 28.2%. Conclusion: Re-challenging taxanes appears to be effective and therefore represents a reasonable option in this population.
Docetaxel; Paclitaxel; Adjuvant; Recurrent breast cancer
We describe a family with a history of breast and ovarian cancer in which MLPA analysis of the BRCA1 gene pointed to a deletion including a part of exon 11. Further characterization confirmed a loss of 374 bp in a region completely covered by conventional sequencing which had not revealed the deletion. Because this alteration was only detected serendipitously with an MLPA probe, we calculated the probabilities of detecting medium-sized deletions in large exons by methods including initial PCR amplification. This showed that a considerable fraction of medium-sized deletions are undetectable by currently used standard methods of mutation analyses. We conclude that long, widely overlapping amplicons should be used to minimize the risk of missing medium-sized deletions. Alternatively, large exons could be completely covered by narrow-spaced MLPA probes.
mutation analysis; DNA sequencing; PCR; hereditary breast cancer; model calculations
A German working group of 23 breast cancer experts discussed the results from the vote at this year's St. Gallen Consensus Conference on Primary Therapy for Early Breast Cancer (March 11–14, 2009) and came up with some concrete recommendations for day-to-day therapeutic decisions in Germany. Due the fact that the concept of the St. Gallen Consensus Conference merely allows for a minimal consensus, the objective of the working group was to provide practice-related recommendations for day-to-day clinical decisions in Germany. One area of emphasis at St. Gallen was tumor biology as a starting point for reaching individual therapeutic decisions. Intensive discussion was necessary with respect to the clinical relevance of predictive and prognostic factors. A new addition to the area of systemic therapy was a first-ever discussion of the adjuvant administration of bisphosponates and the fact that therapy with trastuzumab in HER2 overexpressing breast cancer has been defined as the standard for neoadjuvant therapy. The value of taxanes as a component of (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy as well as the value of aromatase inhibitors for the endocrine adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal patients were affirmed.
The main study objectives were: to develop a set of requirements of comprehensive breast centres; to establish a nationwide voluntary certification programme for breast centres based on such requirements, a certified quality management system (QMS), and scheduled independent, external audits and periodic recertification; and to demonstrate the general acceptance of such a certification programme with a view to introducing similar certification programmes for other major cancers.
Breast centres introduced a QMS and voluntarily participated in an external certification procedure based on guideline-derived Requirements of Breast Centres specifically developed for the application procedure, all subsequent audits and recertification. All data (numbers of pending and successful applications, sites/centre, etc.) were collected by a newly founded, independent organisation for certification of cancer services delivery. Data analysis was descriptive.
Requirements of Breast Centres were developed by the German Cancer Society (DKG), the German Society of Senology (DGS) and other relevant specialist medical societies in the form of a questionnaire comprising 185 essential items based on evidence-based guidelines and the European Society of Breast Cancer Specialists' (EUSOMA) requirements of specialist breast units. From late 2002 to mid 2008, the number of participating breast centres rose from 1 to 175. As of mid 2008, 77% of an estimated 50,000 new breast cancers in Germany were diagnosed and treated at certified breast centres, 78% of which were single-site centres.
Nationwide voluntary certification of breast centres is feasible and well accepted in Germany. Dual certification of breast centres that involves certification of breast services to guideline-derived requirements in conjunction with independent certification of a mandatory QMS can serve as a model for other multidisciplinary site-specific cancer centres.
The development and implementation of evidence-based, interdisciplinary, consensus-based guidelines is a very important step towards decreasing breast cancer mortality and optimizing the process of early detection, diagnosis, therapy, and follow-up of breast cancer. A revised version of the German S3 guideline was published in February 2008. Different working groups, departments, and organizations participate as coeditors of the new guideline. To fulfill international methodic requirements, a systematic search of the literature with selection of new publications (used as evidence) in the established data bases (Medline, BIOSIS, Previews, CDSR, ACP Journal Club, DARE, CCTR, CINHAL) and the Guidelines International Network (GIN) was performed for the time period of 2003–2006. Varied specialist opinions concerning diagnosis, therapy, and follow-up of breast cancer were considered in formal consensus processes. In different steps, Nominal Group Process techniques, the Delphi technique, and formal consensus processes were used. Besides differently weighted, study-based recommendations, statements resulting from structured consensus finding by the interdisciplinary group – in terms of good clinical practice – were postulated.
Breast cancer; Guideline; Diagnosis; Therapy; Follow-up