S-phase fraction and survival benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy or radiotherapy of breast cancer

Br J Cancer. 1994 Dec;70(6):1258-62. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1994.483.


Cancer chemotherapy interacts with cell proliferation, but data on the relationship between cancer cell replication and the effect of adjuvant chemotherapy are scarce. We have investigated the S-phase fractions of the primary tumour from premenopausal breast cancer patients who participated in a randomised trial comparing 12 cycles of polychemotherapy (CMF) with post-operative radiotherapy. DNA flow cytometry was performed on frozen tissues from 208 primary breast carcinomas, of which the S-phase fraction was estimated in 176 cases. There was a significantly higher benefit from CMF among patients with a high S-phase fraction (P = 0.0033). The relative risk of distant recurrence or death in the chemotherapy group as compared with the radiotherapy group was 0.19 for patients whose tumours had an S-phase fraction of 10% or over (95% CI 0.07-0.51) and 1.55 (0.88-2.73) for patients whose tumours showed lower S-phase levels. The interaction was still significant in multivariate analysis (P = 0.0057), including lymph node metastases, tumour size and oestrogen receptor content. We conclude that the benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy compared with radiotherapy is largely confined to patients with highly proliferative tumours.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Ploidies
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • S Phase
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Tamoxifen