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J Clin Oncol. 1990 Jun;8(6):1005-18.

Postoperative chemotherapy and tamoxifen compared with tamoxifen alone in the treatment of positive-node breast cancer patients aged 50 years and older with tumors responsive to tamoxifen: results from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project B-16.

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  • 1National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, Pittsburgh, PA 15261.


The National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) conducted a randomized clinical trial to determine whether tamoxifen (TAM) plus chemotherapy is more effective than TAM alone in improving disease-free survival (DFS), distant disease-free survival (DDFS), and survival (S) of positive-node, TAM-responsive patients aged greater than or equal to 50 years. Women were randomized among three treatment groups: (1) TAM alone, (2) Adriamycin (doxorubicin; Adria Laboratories, Columbus, OH), cyclophosphamide, and TAM (ACT), or (3) melphalan (L-PAM), fluorouracil (5-FU), and TAM (PFT). The PFT arm was later modified so that new patients also received Adriamycin (PAFT). Findings from 1,124 eligible patients through 3 years of follow-up indicated a significantly better DFS for ACT-treated patients than for those receiving TAM alone (84% v 67%; P = .0004). An advantage in DDFS and S was also observed after ACT therapy (83% v 73% [P = .04 in the former] and 93% v 85% [P = .04 in the latter]). Both the DFS and DDFS of PAFT-treated patients were better than in those treated by TAM alone (83% v 66%, P = .0002 and 85% v 73%, P = .003). PFT patients also fared better in DFS and DDFS than TAM patients (81% v 72%, P = .07 and 85% v 74%, P = .02). Odds ratios consistently favored the three TAM-plus-chemotherapy groups. No significant S advantage is as yet evident in favor of the PAFT or PFT groups. Of importance is the failure of these studies to demonstrate an unfavorable interaction between the drug regimens used and the TAM, which was administered simultaneously. The findings related to the use of PAFT and PFT are of more biologic than clinical significance since L-PAM is rarely used in the treatment of breast cancer. The major conclusion from this study is the observance of a better outcome in positive-node breast cancer patients aged greater than or equal to 50 years from the use of postoperative prolonged TAM and short-course AC therapy (completed in 63 days) than from prolonged TAM therapy alone.

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