Dissemination of adjuvant multiagent chemotherapy and tamoxifen for breast cancer in the United States using estrogen receptor information: 1975-1999

J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2006;(36):7-15. doi: 10.1093/jncimonographs/lgj003.


Background: Clinical trials have shown tamoxifen to be effective only in women with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive tumors. In a previous model, trends in the utilization of adjuvant therapy were modeled only as a function of age and stage of the disease and not ER status. In this paper, we integrate this previous estimate on the use of adjuvant systemic therapy for breast cancer in the United States with information on ER status from the Patterns of Care (POC) data to estimate the dissemination of adjuvant therapy for women with different ER-status tumors. We also summarize efficacy of adjuvant systemic therapy reported in the overviews of early breast cancer clinical trials. These two inputs, dissemination and efficacy, are key pieces for models that investigate the effect of breast cancer adjuvant therapy on the decline of U.S. breast cancer mortality.

Methods: The adjustments to the previous models are calculated using the POC data on 7116 women with breast cancer diagnosed from 1987 to 1991 and in 1995 who were randomly selected from the Surveillance, and Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program registries. The POC data provide more accurate information on treatment and clinical variables (e.g., ER status) than the SEER data because medical records are reabstracted and further verified with treating physicians.

Results: Use of multiagent chemotherapy is higher for younger women (<50 years) and for women whose tumors were shown to be ER negative or borderline. The use of tamoxifen is higher among older women and women with ER-positive tumors. After 1980 the combined use of multiagent chemotherapy and tamoxifen for women diagnosed with breast cancer at ages 69 or younger increased more for women whose tumors were ER status positive or unknown than ER status negative. Older women (>69 years) seem to receive almost exclusively tamoxifen irrespective of ER status, except for a small percentage of those with more advanced stages (II- and II+/IIIA) who also receive multiagent chemotherapy.

Discussion: The estimated dissemination trends by ER status, based on modeling the POC data, reveal that treatment strategies with demonstrated efficacy in clinical trials have been adopted into practice. The dissemination and efficacy are the two factors necessary to input into models to determine the population impact of these therapies on U.S. breast cancer mortality. The largest decline in mortality would be expected for younger women (<60 years) with ER-positive tumors or whose tumors are of unknown status because of the largest efficacy and dissemination of adjuvant therapy in this group.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Receptors, Estrogen* / analysis
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data
  • Survival Rate
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Tamoxifen