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Lancet Oncol. 2006 Aug;7(8):633-43.

Comprehensive side-effect profile of anastrozole and tamoxifen as adjuvant treatment for early-stage breast cancer: long-term safety analysis of the ATAC trial.

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University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.



The Arimidex (anastrozole), Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination (ATAC) trial was designed to compare the efficacy and safety of anastrozole with tamoxifen as adjuvant treatment for postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer. After an extended follow-up beyond the 5 years of treatment, we aimed to assess the safety, tolerability, and risk-benefit indices of these compounds.


We analysed postmenopausal women (mean age 64 years [SD 9]) with localised breast cancer randomly assigned to anastrozole (n=3125) or tamoxifen (n=3116). Efficacy measures, including death and risk-benefit indices, were analysed by intention to treat. Safety analyses were based on treatment first received (n=3092 for anastrozole and n=3094 tamoxifen). We calculated a risk-benefit analysis using the two global indices for the Women's Health Initiative and for Disease-Free Survival and Serious Adverse Events. This study is registered as an International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial, number ISRCTN18233230.


At median follow-up of 68 months (range 1-93), treatment-related adverse events occurred significantly less often with anastrozole than with tamoxifen (1884 [61%] vs 2117 [68%]; p<0.0001), as did treatment-related serious adverse events (146 [5%] vs 277 [9%]; p<0.0001) and adverse events leading to withdrawal (344 [11%] vs 442 [14%]; p=0.0002). Patients given anastrozole had significantly fewer overall events for the Global Index of the Women's Health Initiative (744 [24%] vs 851 [27%]; hazard ratio 0.85 [95% CI 0.77-0.94], p=0.001) and the Global Index of Disease-Free Survival and Serious Adverse Events (1453 [46%] vs 1594 [51%]; 0.88 [0.82-0.94]; p=0.0004).


Anastrozole is tolerated better than tamoxifen by postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer, and results in fewer serious adverse events. Furthermore, it has a more favourable overall risk-benefit profile and lower recurrence rate than tamoxifen.

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