Background: Tamoxifen has been the standard adjuvant treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone-responsive early breast cancer for more than 20 years. However, the third-generation aromatase inhibitor anastrozole has proven efficacy and tolerability benefits compared with tamoxifen when used as initial adjuvant therapy. We investigate whether women who have received a period of adjuvant tamoxifen would benefit from being switched to anastrozole.
Methods: We present a combined analysis of data from two prospective, multicentre, randomised, open-label trials with nearly identical inclusion criteria. Postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive early breast cancer who had completed 2 years' adjuvant oral tamoxifen (20 or 30 mg daily) were randomised to receive 1 mg oral anastrozole (n=1618) or 20 or 30 mg tamoxifen (n=1606) daily for the remainder of their adjuvant therapy. The primary endpoint was event-free survival, with an event defined as local or distant metastasis, or contralateral breast cancer. Analysis was by intention to treat.
Findings: 3224 patients were included in analyses. At a median follow-up of 28 months, we noted a 40% decrease in the risk for an event in the anastrozole group as compared with the tamoxifen group (67 events with anastrozole vs 110 with tamoxifen, hazard ratio 0.60, 95% CI 0.44-0.81, p=0.0009). Both study treatments were well tolerated. There were significantly more fractures (p=0.015) and significantly fewer thromboses (p=0.034) in patients treated with anastrozole than in those on tamoxifen.
Interpretation: These data lend support to a switch from tamoxifen to anastrozole in patients who have completed 2 years' adjuvant tamoxifen.