Clinical characteristics of patients with metastatic breast cancer with complete remission following systemic treatment

Jpn J Clin Oncol. 1998 Jun;28(6):368-73. doi: 10.1093/jjco/28.6.368.


Background: Patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) have variable clinical courses. The purpose was to describe the clinical characteristics of MBC patients with complete remissions (CR) following systemic treatment.

Methods: We analyzed 315 consecutive MBC patients treated with several types of systemic treatments at the National Cancer Center Hospital between January 1988 and December 1993.

Results: The median survival time (MST) and median progression-free survival were 28.0 and 17.1 months, respectively. Forty patients were defined as 'first-CR' following initial or second-line systemic treatment and the majority of them had a good performance status, low number of metastatic sites and low incidence of liver involvement. Nine of 40 patients with first-CR continued progression-free 5 years after beginning systemic treatments. The major sites of metastasis were the lung and bone and there were no cases with liver metastasis. Five patients received standard doxorubicin-containing combination chemotherapy with or without tamoxifen. Two of these nine patients remain progression free in first-CR. Three of them remained in first-CR after 5 years and died of progressive breast cancer and two others died of unrelated causes. Two patients relapsed after obtaining a first-CR for at least 5 years and remain alive with active metastatic disease. The MST and median progression-free survival of nine patients were 10.6 and 9.0 years, respectively. These nine patients represented 22.5% of all first-CR patients and 3.2% of the total patients.

Conclusions: Although MBC is commonly recognized to be an incurable disease, a small percentage of patients clearly are alive and progression free for prolonged periods after initiation of systemic treatments.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cyclophosphamide / administration & dosage
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Remission Induction
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tamoxifen / administration & dosage


  • Tamoxifen
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Fluorouracil