Objective: Our goal was to provide health-care providers, patients, and the general public with an assessment of currently available data regarding the use of adjuvant therapy for breast cancer.
Participants: The participants included a non-Federal, non-advocate, 14-member panel representing the fields of oncology, radiology, surgery, pathology, statistics, public health, and health policy as well as patient representatives. In addition, 30 experts in medical oncology, radiation oncology, biostatistics, epidemiology, surgical oncology, and clinical trials presented data to the panel and to a conference audience of 1000.
Evidence: The literature was searched with the use of MEDLINE(TM) for January 1995 through July 2000, and an extensive bibliography of 2230 references was provided to the panel. Experts prepared abstracts for their conference presentations with relevant citations from the literature. Evidence from randomized clinical trials and evidence from prospective studies were given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience.
Consensus process: The panel, answering predefined questions, developed its conclusions based on the evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement, which was read in its entirety and circulated to the experts and the audience for comment. Thereafter, the panel resolved conflicting recommendations and released a revised statement at the end of the conference. The panel finalized the revisions within a few weeks after the conference. The draft statement was made available on the World Wide Web immediately after its release at the conference and was updated with the panel's final revisions. The statement is available at http://consensus.nih.gov.
Conclusions: The panel concludes that decisions regarding adjuvant hormonal therapy should be based on the presence of hormone receptor protein in tumor tissues. Adjuvant hormonal therapy should be offered only to women whose tumors express hormone receptor protein. Because adjuvant polychemotherapy improves survival, it should be recommended to the majority of women with localized breast cancer regardless of lymph node, menopausal, or hormone receptor status. The inclusion of anthracyclines in adjuvant chemotherapy regimens produces a small but statistically significant improvement in survival over non-anthracycline-containing regimens. Available data are currently inconclusive regarding the use of taxanes in adjuvant treatment of lymph node-positive breast cancer. The use of adjuvant dose-intensive chemotherapy regimens in high-risk breast cancer and of taxanes in lymph node-negative breast cancer should be restricted to randomized trials. Ongoing studies evaluating these treatment strategies should be supported to determine if such strategies have a role in adjuvant treatment. Studies to date have included few patients older than 70 years. There is a critical need for trials to evaluate the role of adjuvant chemotherapy in these women. There is evidence that women with a high risk of locoregional tumor recurrence after mastectomy benefit from postoperative radiotherapy. This high-risk group includes women with four or more positive lymph nodes or an advanced primary cancer. Currently, the role of postmastectomy radiotherapy for patients with one to three positive lymph nodes remains uncertain and should be tested in a randomized controlled trial. Individual patients differ in the importance they place on the risks and benefits of adjuvant treatments. Quality of life needs to be evaluated in selected randomized clinical trials to examine the impact of the major acute and long-term side effects of adjuvant treatments, particularly premature menopause, weight gain, mild memory loss, and fatigue. Methods to support shared decision-making between patients and their physicians have been successful in trials; they need to be tailored for diverse populations and should be tested for broader dissemination.