Combined-modality treatment of inflammatory breast carcinoma: twenty years of experience at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 1997;40(4):321-9. doi: 10.1007/s002800050664.


Purpose: To review the 20 years of experience at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center with a combined-modality approach against inflammatory breast carcinoma.

Patients and methods: A total of 178 patients with inflammatory breast carcinoma were treated in the past 20 years at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center by a combined-modality approach under four different protocols. Each protocol included induction chemotherapy, then local therapy (radiotherapy or mastectomy), then adjuvant chemotherapy, and, if mastectomy was performed, adjuvant radiotherapy. Chemotherapy consisted of 5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide (FAC) with or without vincristine and prednisone (VP). In protocol D, patients received an alternate adjuvant chemotherapy regimen, methotrexate and vinblastine (MV), if they did not have a complete response (CR) to induction chemotherapy.

Results: The median follow-up of live patients in group A was 215 months, in group B 186 months, in group C 116 months, and in group D 45 months. An estimated 28% of patients were currently free of disease beyond 15 years. At the time of analysis, 50 patients were alive without any evidence of disease. A further 12 patients died of intercurrent illness, and 15 patients were followed beyond 10 years without recurrence of disease. Among initial recurrence, 20% of patients had local failure, 39% systemic failure, and 9% CNS recurrence. Initial response to induction chemotherapy was an important prognostic factor. Disease-free survival (DFS) at 15 years was 44% in patients who had a CR to induction chemotherapy, 31% in those who had a partial response (PR), and 7% in those who had less than a PR. There was no improvement in overall survival (OS) or DFS among patients who underwent alternate chemotherapy (MV) compared with those who did not. Using surgery and radiotherapy as opposed to radiotherapy alone as local therapy did not have an impact on the DFS or OS rate.

Conclusion: These long-term follow-up data show that with a combined-modality approach a significant fraction of patients (28%) remained free of disease beyond 15 years. In contrast, single-modality treatments yielded a DFS of less than 5%. Thus, using combined-modality treatment (chemotherapy, then mastectomy, then chemotherapy and radiotherapy) is recommended as a standard of care for inflammatory breast carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Mastectomy
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome