Purpose: Letrozole is superior to tamoxifen in terms of response and breast preservation rates as primary systemic therapy (PST) in postmenopausal women with ER-positive early breast cancer. However, the optimum duration of endocrine PST remains uncertain.
Methods: A phase 2 multicentre, open-label trial was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of letrozole over a preoperative period of 4 months to 1 year. Seventy postmenopausal patients (over 65 years) were recruited in four centers. The primary endpoint was to establish the optimal duration of treatment defined as the time required to attain the maximum response by clinical palpation.
Results: The median age of the group was 79 years (66-91) and the median tumour size 35 mm (range 25-100 mm). No severe adverse events were reported. Fifty-six patients were evaluable for the primary objective. A total of 43 patients (76.8%) achieved an objective response; 29 (51.8%) being partial and 14 (25.0%) complete. The median time to objective response was 3.9 months (95% CI, 3.3-4.5) and the median time to maximum response was 4.2 months (95% CI, 4.0-4.5), although 20 (37.1%) patients achieved the maximal response within 6-12 months.
Conclusions: Letrozole shows a high activity and excellent tolerability as neoadjuvant therapy in elderly patients with endocrine-dependent breast cancer. Four to six months of letrozole as PST is an optimum duration with modest benefits thereafter.