Background: We compared docetaxel with vinorelbine for the adjuvant treatment of early breast cancer. Women with tumors that overexpressed HER2/neu were also assigned to receive concomitant treatment with trastuzumab or no such treatment.
Methods: We randomly assigned 1010 women with axillary-node-positive or high-risk node-negative cancer to receive three cycles of docetaxel or vinorelbine, followed by (in both groups) three cycles of fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide. The 232 women whose tumors had an amplified HER2/neu gene were further assigned to receive or not to receive nine weekly trastuzumab infusions. The primary end point was recurrence-free survival.
Results: Recurrence-free survival at three years was better with docetaxel than with vinorelbine (91 percent vs. 86 percent; hazard ratio for recurrence or death, 0.58; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.40 to 0.85; P=0.005), but overall survival did not differ between the groups (P=0.15). Within the subgroup of patients who had HER2/neu-positive cancer, those who received trastuzumab had better three-year recurrence-free survival than those who did not receive the antibody (89 percent vs. 78 percent; hazard ratio for recurrence or death, 0.42; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.21 to 0.83; P=0.01). Docetaxel was associated with more adverse effects than was vinorelbine. Trastuzumab was not associated with decreased left ventricular ejection fraction or cardiac failure.
Conclusions: Adjuvant treatment with docetaxel, as compared with vinorelbine, improves recurrence-free survival in women with early breast cancer. A short course of trastuzumab administered concomitantly with docetaxel or vinorelbine is effective in women with breast cancer who have an amplified HER2/neu gene. (International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial number, ISRCTN76560285.).
Copyright 2006 Massachusetts Medical Society.