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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2013 Nov 15;87(4):731-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2013.07.028. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

pN0(i+) breast cancer: treatment patterns, locoregional recurrence, and survival outcomes.

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Radiation Therapy Program, Vancouver Island and Vancouver Centre, British Columbia Cancer Agency, University of British Columbia, Victoria, BC, Canada; Breast Cancer Outcomes Unit, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, BC, Canada.



To examine treatment patterns, recurrence, and survival outcomes in patients with pN0(i+) breast cancer.


Subjects were 5999 women with AJCC (6th edition) pT1-3, pN0-N1a, M0 breast cancer diagnosed between 2003 and 2006. Of these, 4342 (72%) had pN0, 96 (2%) had pN0(i+), 349 (6%) had pNmic (micrometastases>0.2 mm to ≤2 mm), and 1212 (20%) had pN1a (1-3 positive macroscopic nodes) disease. Treatment characteristics and 5-year Kaplan-Meier local recurrence, regional recurrence (RR), locoregional recurrence (LRR), and overall survival were compared between nodal subgroups. Multivariable analysis was performed using Cox regression modeling. A 1:3 case-match analysis examined outcomes in pN0(i+) cases compared with pN0 controls matched for similar tumor and treatment characteristics.


Median follow-up was 4.8 years. Adjuvant systemic therapy use increased with nodal stage: 81%, 92%, 95%, and 94% in pN0, pN0(i+), pNmic, and pN1a disease, respectively (P<.001). Nodal radiation therapy (RT) use also increased with nodal stage: 1.7% in pN0, 27% in pN0(i+), 33% in pNmic, and 63% in pN1a cohorts (P<.001). Five-year Kaplan-Meier outcomes in pN0 versus pN0(i+) cases were as follows: local recurrence 1.7% versus 3.7% (P=.20), RR 0.5% versus 2.2% (P=.02), and LRR 2.1% versus 5.8% (P=.02). There were no RR events in 26 patients with pN0(i+) disease who received nodal RT and 2 RR events in 70 patients who did not receive nodal RT. On multivariable analysis, pN0(i+) was not associated with worse locoregional control or survival. On case-match analysis, LRR and overall survival were similar between pN0(i+) and matched pN0 counterparts.


Nodal involvement with isolated tumor cells is not a significant prognostic factor for LRR or survival in this study's multivariable and case-match analyses. These data do not support the routine use of nodal RT in the setting of pN0(i+) disease. Prospective studies are needed to define optimal locoregional management for women with pN0(i+) breast cancer.

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