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Br J Surg. 2005 Jan;92(1):14-23.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer.

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Cambridge Breast Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.



Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer was originally used in locally advanced inoperable disease in order to achieve surgical resection. It was then extended to operable breast cancer with a view to downstaging tumours to facilitate breast-conserving surgery. Increasingly, it is being considered as a treatment for earlier-stage disease.


A Medline literature search was performed to identify articles relating to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer published in the English language between 1960 and 2004. Secondary references were obtained from key articles. Search words included 'neoadjuvant chemotherapy', 'breast cancer', 'tumour biology', 'tumour markers' and 'sentinel lymph node biopsy'.


Long-term results from randomized studies have shown no difference in disease-free or overall survival between neoadjuvant and adjuvant chemotherapy. The main benefit of neoadjuvant chemotherapy is its ability to downstage large tumours with a view to treatment by breast-conserving surgery, although there is a non-significant increase in the local recurrence rate. Initial results of neoadjuvant chemotherapy trials using newer agents such as taxanes have demonstrated a greater pathological complete response. Whether this will translate into better long-term survival remains to be seen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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