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J Clin Oncol. 2005 Aug 1;23(22):5138-47. Epub 2005 Jul 11.

Switching to anastrozole versus continued tamoxifen treatment of early breast cancer: preliminary results of the Italian Tamoxifen Anastrozole Trial.

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  • 1National Cancer Research Institute, 16132 Genoa, Italy.



Tamoxifen, which is actually the gold standard adjuvant treatment in estrogen receptor-positive early breast cancer, is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer and other life-threatening events. Moreover, many women relapse during or after tamoxifen therapy because of the development of resistance. Therefore new approaches are required.


We conducted a prospective randomized trial to test the efficacy of switching postmenopausal patients who were already receiving tamoxifen to the aromatase inhibitor anastrozole. After 2 to 3 years of tamoxifen treatment, patients were randomly assigned either to receive anastrozole 1 mg/d or to continue receiving tamoxifen 20 mg/d, for a total duration of treatment of 5 years. Disease-free survival was the primary end point. Event-free survival, overall survival, and safety were secondary end points.


Four hundred forty-eight patients were enrolled. All women had node-positive, estrogen receptor-positive tumors. At a median follow-up time of 36 months, 45 events had been reported in the tamoxifen group compared with 17 events in the anastrozole group (P = .0002). Disease-free and local recurrence-free survival were also significantly longer in the anastrozole group (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.35; 95% CI, 0.18 to 0.68; P = .001 and HR = 0.15; 95% CI, 0.03 to 0.65; P = .003, respectively). Overall, more adverse events were recorded in the anastrozole group compared with the tamoxifen group (203 v 150, respectively; P = .04). However, more events were life threatening or required hospitalization in the tamoxifen group than in the anastrozole group (33 of 150 events v 28 of 203 events, P = .04).


Switching to anastrozole after the first 2 to 3 years of treatment is well tolerated and significantly improves event-free and recurrence-free survival in postmenopausal patients with early breast cancer.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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