Background: The role of adjuvant bisphosphonates in early breast cancer is uncertain. We therefore did a large randomised trial to investigate the effect of the adjuvant use of zoledronic acid on disease-free survival (DFS) in high-risk patients with early breast cancer.
Methods: In the AZURE trial, an open-label, international, multicentre, randomised, controlled, parallel-group phase 3 trial, women (age ≥18 years) with stage II or III breast cancer were randomly assigned (1:1) by a central automated 24-h computer-generated telephone minimisation system (balanced for number of involved axillary lymph nodes, tumour stage, oestrogen receptor status, type and timing of systemic therapy, menopausal status, statin use, and treatment centre) to receive standard adjuvant systemic treatment alone (control group) or with 4 mg intravenous zoledronic acid every 3-4 weeks for six doses, then every 3 months for eight doses, followed by every 6 months for five doses, for a total of 5 years of treatment. The primary endpoint was disease-free survival (DFS). Secondary endpoints were invasive DFS (IDFS), overall survival, time to bone metastases, time to distant recurrence, and subgroup analyses of variables included in the randomisation. All patients have completed study treatment. Results from the intention-to-treat final analysis of this fully recruited study are presented after a median follow-up of 84 months (IQR 66-93). This final efficacy analysis was planned to take place after 940 DFS events. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00072020.
Findings: 3360 women were recruited from 174 centres in seven countries between Sept 4, 2003, and Feb 16, 2006. The number of DFS events did not differ between groups: 493 in the control group and 473 in the zoledronic acid group (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0·94, 95% CI 0·82-1·06; p=0·30). IDFS (HR 0·93, 95% CI 0·82-1·05; p=0·22), overall survival (0·93, 0·81-1·08; p=0·37), and distant recurrences (0·93, 0·81-1·07; p=0·29) were much the same in both groups. Zoledronic acid reduced the development of bone metastases, both as a first event (HR 0·78, 95% CI 0·63-0·96; p=0·020) and at any time during follow-up (0·81, 0·68-0·97; p=0·022). The effects of zoledronic acid on DFS were not affected by oestrogen-receptor status. However, zoledronic acid improved IDFS in those who were over 5 years since menopause at trial entry (n=1041; HR 0·77, 95% CI 0·63-0·96) but not in all other (premenopause, perimenopause, and unknown status) menopausal groups (n=2318; HR 1·03, 95% CI 0·89-1·20). 33 cases of suspected osteonecrosis of the jaw have been reported, with 26 confirmed on central review, all in the zoledronic acid group (1·7%, 95% CI 1·0-2·4).
Interpretation: These results suggest no overall benefit from the addition of zoledronic acid to standard adjuvant treatments for early breast cancer. However, zoledronic acid does reduce the development of bone metastases and, for women with established menopause, improved disease outcomes.
Funding: Novartis Global and NIHR Cancer Research Network.
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