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Breast J. 2012 Mar-Apr;18(2):145-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2011.01203.x. Epub 2011 Dec 16.

Aromatase inhibitors as solely treatment in postmenopausal breast cancer patients.

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University Women's Clinic, Hanover Medical School, Hanover, Germany.


Several studies evaluating the clinical effectiveness of endocrine therapy alone in breast cancer patients aged 70 years or older reported comparable survival rates to conventional surgical therapy, although the incidence of local recurrences was higher. Primary endocrine therapy is therefore only recommended as an alternative approach in elderly woman with estrogen receptor positive tumors who are deemed inoperable or who refuse surgery. We report our experience with aromatase inhibitors as primary endocrine therapy for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer in postmenopausal woman who are impaired by other diseases, refuse surgery or are of old age. Fifty-six patients with fifty-seven ER+ operable breast cancers who refused surgery, were judged ineligible for surgery because of comorbidity, or were of old age were treated with endocrine therapy using aromatase inhibitors only. Digital mammography and high-end breast ultrasound were used to assess tumor sizes. The mean age of the patients was 74 years (range 52-102 years). All patients suffered from breast cancer. The mean follow-up interval was 40 months (range 5-92 months). Seven patients (12%) achieved complete clinical remission, 31 (57%) partial response giving an overall objective response rate of 69%. In addition, seven (12%) patients showed stable disease, giving a clinical benefit rate (complete remission + partial response + stable disease rate) of 81%. Eleven patients (19%) progressed after an initial partial response or stable disease. Only one patient (2%) progressed on endocrine therapy within the first months. Eventually, 22 (39%) patients underwent surgery after informed consent to achieve better local tumor control. Primary endocrine therapy with aromatase inhibitors may offer an effective and safe alternative to surgery giving a high local control rate in postmenopausal women who refuse surgery, who are judged ineligible for surgery, or are of old age.

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