BACKGROUND: Neoadjuvant (primary) chemotherapy is being used increasingly in the treatment of patients with large and locally advanced breast cancer with the aim of reducing the size of the primary tumor and eliminating micrometastatic disease. Response rates to, compliance with, and survival of patients following neoadjuvant chemotherapy have been variable. We report the results of a consecutive series of 77 patients with breast cancer who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
METHODS: Seventy-seven patients with locally advanced breast cancers were treated with multimodality therapy comprising up to six cycles of chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, vincristine, doxorubicin, and prednisolone), radiotherapy, and then surgery. The median follow-up was 54 months. Clinical response rates to therapy and overall survival have been documented. In addition, prognostic factors for survival were identified using the Cox proportional hazards model.
RESULTS: The overall objective response rate of the primary tumor to chemotherapy alone was 87% (25% complete and 62% partial responses, UICC criteria). Following radiotherapy the response rate was 90% (52% complete and 38% partial responses). The overall 5-year survival for all patients was 0.48. However, the probability of survival at 5 years was 0.74 in those with a complete response, and 0.36 if there was a partial clinical response, but no patients who had either stasis of disease or progression survived for 5 years. Independent predictors of better survival that were identified were a complete histopathological response after chemotherapy and radiotherapy, a complete clinical response to chemotherapy, and five or six cycles of chemotherapy versus four or less.
CONCLUSIONS: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients with large and locally advanced breast cancers can result in satisfactory local control and overall survival rates, especially in patients with a complete clinical or histopathological response after treatment.