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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2003 Sep;86(3-5):399-403.

'Arimidex' (anastrozole) versus tamoxifen as adjuvant therapy in postmenopausal women with early breast cancer--efficacy overview.

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  • 1Department of Breast Medical Oncology, The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Box 424, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


ATAC, a randomized, double-blind trial, compared tamoxifen (20 mg) with anastrozole ('Arimidex') (1 mg) alone, and the combination of anastrozole plus tamoxifen (combination), as adjuvant endocrine treatment for postmenopausal patients with early breast cancer. Patients with operable invasive breast cancer following completion of primary therapy, who were candidates to receive adjuvant endocrine therapy, were eligible for this study. Primary endpoints were disease-free survival (DFS) and tolerability. Other endpoints included time to recurrence (TTR: censoring non-breast cancer deaths before recurrence) and the incidence of contralateral breast cancer. A total of 9366 patients were included in this study (N=3125, 3116 and 3125 for anastrozole, tamoxifen and the combination, respectively). Median duration of therapy was 30.7 months and median follow-up was 33.3 months. The total numbers of events were 317, 379 and 383 for anastrozole, tamoxifen and the combination, respectively. DFS was significantly improved in the overall population for anastrozole versus tamoxifen (hazard ratio (HR)=0.81, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.71-0.96), P=0.013). Anastrozole showed improved TTR compared with tamoxifen (HR=0.79, CI (0.67-0.94), P=0.008), which improved even further in the ER+ and/or PR+ subgroup (HR=0.73, CI (0.59-0.90), P=0.003). The incidences of hot flushes, thromboembolic events, ischaemic cerebrovascular events, vaginal bleeding/discharge and endometrial cancer were significantly reduced with anastrozole compared with tamoxifen (P<0.03 for all). Musculoskeletal disorders and fractures were significantly reduced in patients receiving tamoxifen compared with those on anastrozole (P<0.03 for both). No increase in hip fractures was seen for anastrozole versus tamoxifen (11 versus 13, respectively). Combination treatment was equivalent to tamoxifen in terms of both efficacy and tolerability. Anastrozole showed superior efficacy to tamoxifen for DFS, TTR and contralateral breast cancer. Early findings show anastrozole to be an effective and well-tolerated endocrine option for the treatment of postmenopausal patients with early breast cancer. For the first time a choice now exists for adjuvant endocrine treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone responsive tumours. Longer follow-up will further define the benefit/risk of anastrozole adjuvant therapy.

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