Systemic therapy for treating locoregional recurrence in women with breast cancer.

H. Rauschecker, M. Clarke, W. Gatzemeier, A. Recht

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BACKGROUND: Between 10% and 35% of women with operable breast cancer will experience an isolated locoregional recurrence following their primary treatment. There is currently no good evidence that adjuvant systemic treatment is effective in this situation and there is no standard treatment for women who have such a recurrence. OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether additional systemic treatment will improve the result of local therapy in regard to relapse-free and overall survival in women with potentially curatively resected loco-regional recurrence following breast cancer, who have not had a previous or synchronous distant metastases. SEARCH STRATEGY: Searches were done, in the first half of 2001, of the specialised register of the Cochrane Breast Cancer Collaborative Review Group, The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE and EMBASE. In addition, the records of the Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group were checked for any relevant trials. The citations in articles reviewing the treatment of locoregional recurrence of breast cancer were checked. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials or trials in which women were allocated to treatment or observation by a quasi-random process (such as alternation or date of birth) were eligible. Our aim was to consider separately women with a first incidence of isolated loco-regional recurrence in the treated breast, the chest wall or the regional lymphnode areas (except clavicular nodes) which can be resected without (R0) or with (R1) microscopically demonstrable residual disease. Women with previous or synchronous distant metastases were to be excluded from this part of the review. The second part of the review was to consider women with inoperable loco-regional recurrence and / or clavicular lymphnode involvement, regardless of previous or synchronous metastases. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We identified three closed studies in which there were a total of four randomised comparisons of systemic therapy versus observation for women who have received radiotherapy for loco-regional recurrence of breast cancer. One trial assessed Actinomyicin-D and randomised 32 patients in the 1960s and another randomised the same number of women to alpha-interferon versus observation in the early 1980s. The Swiss SAKK trial assessed tamoxifen for "good risk" patients and combination chemotherapy (Vincristine, Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide) for "poor risk" patients. It randomised 178 and 50 women respectively during 1982-1991. Where possible, data on relapse-free and overall survival were extracted for these trials and analysed using RevMan 4.1. No attempt was made to pool the results of the studies because of clinical heterogeneity and the small number of randomised patients. Three ongoing trials of chemotherapy versus observation have been identified. MAIN RESULTS: The trial of 32 women who received either radiotherapy alone or in combination with systemic administration of Actinomycin-D found that chemotherapy improved the local control rate but had no apparent effect on overall survival. The interferon trial, which also included a total of only 32 patients, showed that the addition of alpha-Interferon to local treatment of locoregional recurrent breast cancer had no apparent effect on the further course of the disease. The Swiss SAKK trial of tamoxifen (178 women randomized) found an improvement in disease-free survival but not in overall survival and no results are available for the 50 women randomized into the concurrent trial of chemotherapy. The three ongoing trials of chemotherapy have a total target accrual of nearly 2000 patients. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review of randomised trials provides insufficient evidence to do other than conclude that the most appropriate form of practice for women with loco-regional recurrence of breast cancer is participation in randomised trials of systemic treatment versus observation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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