The optimal means of combining breast-conserving surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with early-stage, node-positive breast cancer is not known. We reviewed the results in 295 patients treated at the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy and affiliated institutions from 1976 to 1985. All patients had positive axillary nodes on dissection, had no gross residual disease in the breast or axilla after surgery, and received breast irradiation (with or without nodal irradiation) and three or more cycles of a cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil (CMF)-based or doxorubicin-containing regimen. Median follow-up in patients without any failure was 78 months. Breast failure rates were assessed in relation to the sequencing of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The different sequences were not randomly assigned, and the characteristics of the sequence groups differed. The actuarial 5-year breast failure rate was 4% in 99 patients receiving radiotherapy before chemotherapy; 8% in 54 patients sequentially receiving some chemotherapy, then radiotherapy without concurrent chemotherapy, then further chemotherapy; and 6% in 116 patients receiving concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, the failure rate was 41% in 26 patients who received all chemotherapy before radiotherapy. The crude incidences of local failure within 4 years of treatment in these groups were 3%, 2%, 4%, and 15%, respectively (P = .065 for all four groups not being the same). The actuarial 5-year local failure rate was 5% for 252 patients irradiated within 16 weeks after surgery compared with 35% for 34 patients irradiated more than 16 weeks after surgery. The 4-year crude incidences were 4% and 12% for the two groups, respectively (P = .06). These results suggest that delaying the initiation of radiotherapy may result in an increased likelihood of local failure. Formal randomized controlled trials will be needed to confirm these results and to improve the integration of these treatment modalities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research