Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the role of postmastectomy radiation therapy in women with breast cancer who achieved a pathologic complete response (pCR) to neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Methods and materials: We retrospectively identified 226 patients treated at our institution who achieved a pCR at surgery after receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Of these, the 106 patients without inflammatory breast cancer who were treated with mastectomy were analyzed. The patients' clinical stages at diagnosis were I in 2%, II in 31%, IIIA in 30%, IIIB in 25%, and IIIC in 11% (American Joint Committee on Cancer 2003 system). Of the patients, 92% received anthracycline-based chemotherapy, and 38% also received a taxane. A total of 72 patients received postmastectomy radiation therapy, and 34 did not. The actuarial rates of local-regional recurrence (LRR) and survival of the two groups were compared using the log-rank test.
Results: The median follow-up of surviving patients was 62 months. Use of radiation therapy did not affect the 10-year rates of LRR for patients with Stage I or II disease (the 10-year LRR rates were 0% for both groups). However, the 10-year LRR rate for patients with Stage III disease was significantly improved with radiation therapy (7.3% +/- 3.5% with vs. 33.3% +/- 15.7% without; p = 0.040). Within this cohort, use of radiation therapy was also associated with improved disease-specific and overall survival.
Conclusion: Postmastectomy radiation therapy provides a significant clinical benefit for breast cancer patients who present with clinical Stage III disease and achieve a pCR after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.