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Ann Surg Oncol. 1998 Mar;5(2):150-8.

Selection of local therapy after neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients with stage IIIA,B breast cancer.

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Surgery Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.



Stage IIIA,B breast cancer is commonly treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy because of high objective response rates and improved operability. Criteria for subsequent selection of local therapy--mastectomy, radiotherapy, or both--are not well defined. We adopted a policy of selective local therapy based on rebiopsy of the breast and clinical axillary lymph node status at the time of best response to chemotherapy.


Between 1980 and 1993, 126 patients with stage IIIA,B breast cancer were treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy and definitive local therapy. The long-term incidence of locoregional failure (in-breast, chest wall, axilla, supraclavicular, neck), relapse-free survival, and overall survival was determined.


The overall clinical objective response rate to chemotherapy was 95.2%. Eighty-three patients underwent mastectomy, with negative margins achieved in 91.6%. Forty-two patients had breast preservation; the overall in-breast recurrence rate was 19.0% (8 of 42 patients). The overall locoregional recurrence rate by site was: chest wall-8.7% (11 of 126 patients), axilla-8.7% (11 of 126 patients), supraclavicular-5.6% (7 of 126 patients), and neck-4.0% (5 of 126 patients). The axillary recurrence rate was 6.6% (5 of 76 patients) for clinically negative axilla treated with radiotherapy only, and 12.0% (6 of 50 patients) for clinically positive axilla treated with surgery only. The overall long-term survival probabilities (6 years) according to stage were: stage IIIA-58.0%, stage IIIB(noninflam)-58.0%, stage IIIB(inflam)-36.0%.


These findings support a selective approach to local therapy in patients with stage IIIA,B breast cancer. This approach provides local control in most patients, and allows for breast preservation and elimination of axillary dissection in selected patients.

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