According to an article recently published in the Annals of Oncology, therapy to suppress female hormones (hormone blockade) and chemotherapy result in similar survival at seven years for premenopausal women with hormone-positive breast cancer.

The majority of breast cancers are referred to as hormone-positive breast cancer. This refers to cancer that is stimulated to grow from exposure to female hormones. Hormone therapy blocks female hormones from being produced and from reaching the cancer cells. This inhibits cancer growth that is normally stimulated by these hormones.

The optimal way to treat premenopausal women with early, hormone-positive breast cancer is still being evaluated. Premenopausal women tend to have more aggressive cancers than postmenopausal women, so more aggressive therapy is often considered. However, specific treatment options continue to be compared in an attempt to identify the optimal therapeutic regimen for these women.

Researchers from France recently conducted a clinical trial to directly compare hormone blockade to chemotherapy in the treatment of premenopausal women with hormone-positive breast cancer. This trial included 333 patients whose cancer had spread to betweem one and three axillary (under the arm) lymph nodes. Patients were treated with triptorelin plus tamoxifen (hormone blockade) or fluorouracil, epirubicin and cyclophosphamide (chemotherapy).

  • At seven years, cancer-free survival and overall survival were not different among the group of women treated with hormone blockade compared to the group treated with chemotherapy.
  • Cancer-free survival at seven years was 76% for those treated with hormone blockade, compared with 72% for those treated with chemotherapy.
  • Overall survival at seven years was 91% for those treated with hormone blockade, compared with 88% for those treated with chemotherapy.
  • Loss of menstruation from treatment occurred in 64% of patients total; temporary loss of menstruation occurred in 58% of patients treated with hormone blockade, and 31% of patients treated with chemotherapy.

The researchers concluded that it appears that hormone blockade and chemotherapy provide similar cancer-free and overall survival at seven years among premenopausal women with early, hormone-positive breast cancer. Premenopausal women with breast cancer should discuss the risks and benefits of all treatment options with their physician.

Reference: Roche H, Kerbrat P, Bonneterre J, et al. Complete Hormonal Blockade Versus Epirubicin-Based Chemotherapy in Premenopausal, One to Three Node-Positive, and Hormone-Receptor Positive, Early Breast Cancer Patients: 7-Year Follow-Up Results of French Adjuvant Study Group 06 Randomised Trial. Annals of Oncology. 2006; 17: 17(8):1221-1227.

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