Objective: To provide health care providers, patients, and the general public with a current consensus on various issues related to the use of adjuvant therapy for breast cancer.
Participants: A nonfederal, nonadvocate, 14-member panel representing the fields of oncology, radiology, surgery, pathology, statistics, public health, health policy, and the public; 30 experts in medical oncology, molecular oncology, biostatistics, epidemiology, surgical oncology, and clinical trials who presented data to the consensus panel; a conference audience of approximately 1,000.
Evidence: The literature was searched using MEDLINE and an extensive bibliography of references was provided to the panel. Experts prepared abstracts with relevant citations from the literature. Scientific evidence was given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience.
Consensus process: The panel, answering predefined questions, developed their conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement that 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 following its release at the conference and was updated with the panel's final revisions.
Conclusions: During the past 10 years, substantial progress has been made in the treatment of invasive breast cancer. For the first time, breast cancer mortality rates are decreasing in the United States. Refinements of adjuvant treatment have contributed to this advance. Generally accepted prognostic and predictive factors include age, tumor size, lymph node status, histological tumor type, grade, mitotic rate, and hormonal receptor status. Novel technologies, such as tissue and expression microarrays and proteomics, hold exciting potential. Progress, however, will depend on proper design and analysis of clinical and pathological investigations. 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 nodal, 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 node-positive breast cancer. The use of adjuvant dose-intensive chemotherapy regimens in high-risk breast cancer and of taxanes in node-negative breast cancer should be restricted to randomized trials. Ongoing studies evaluating these treatment strategies should be supported to determine if they 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 post-mastectomy 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.