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Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2006 Aug;18(6):453-8.

Pre-treatment haemoglobin levels and the prediction of response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer.

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Academic Oncology Unit, Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood, UK.



A low pre-treatment haemoglobin level has been shown to negatively influence outcome in the treatment of tumours of the cervix, bladder and head and neck by radiotherapy. The purpose of this study was to assess the influence of baseline haemoglobin levels on the response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer.


One hundred and thirty-nine women receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy for operable breast tumours (T2-4, N0-1, M0) were accessed from our prospective database. Women were treated between March 1999 and June 2004. The median age was 47 years (range 25-70). Most women were treated with 5-fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide chemotherapy (122/139 patients). Baseline haemoglobin levels were compared for clinical responders (partial or complete) and non-responders (stable or progressive disease) using Student's t test and logistic regression. The analysis was adjusted for nodal status, tumour size, tumour grade and menopausal status.


The overall response rate was 84.9% (118/139), with a complete clinical response in 24.5% (34/139). Mean haemoglobin levels were 13.3 g/dl in responders and 13.4 g/dl in non-responders (range 7.9-15.8). The distributions of haemoglobin levels were not significantly different when comparing either responders with non-responders or 'good' responders with 'poor' responders (P = 0.70 and P = 0.32, respectively). If haemoglobin is treated as a binary variable using 12.0 g/dl as the threshold, there is a non-significant trend towards a reduction in the probability of achieving a good response if baseline haemoglobin is below 12.0 g/dl (odds ratio = 0.26, confidence interval = 0.06-1.21; P = 0.086). The rate of complete pathological response was 4.3% (6/139). The mean haemoglobin level in these patients was 14.2 g/dl (range = 12.8-15.7), but the small numbers precluded further analysis.


There is no evidence for an influence of pre-treatment haemoglobin levels on the clinical response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer. It is unlikely that correction of anaemia above that which is warranted clinically will improve outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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