Randomised trial of high-dose chemotherapy and haemopoietic progenitor-cell support in operable breast cancer with extensive axillary lymph-node involvement

Sjoerd Rodenhuis*, Dick J. Richel, Elsken Van Der Wall, Jan H. Schornagel, Caro C.E. Koning, Joke W. Baars, Johannes L. Peterse, Jacques H. Borger, Willem J. Nooijen, Roel Bakx, Otilia Dalesio, Emiel Rutgers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. Uncontrolled studies suggest that high-dose chemotherapy is beneficial in patients with breast cancer and multiple metastases to the axillary lymph nodes. Many physicians accept this treatment as standard care. We aimed to assess adjuvant high-dose chemotherapy in breast cancer in a phase II randomised trial. Methods. 97 women aged younger than 60 years, who had breast cancer with extensive axillary-node metastases (confirmed by a tumour-positive infraclavicular lymph-node biopsy), received three courses of up-front chemotherapy (FE120C). This regimen consisted of cyclophosphamide 500 mg/m2, epirubicin 120 mg/m2, and 5-fluorouracil 500 mg/m2 once weekly for 3 weeks. After surgery, stable patients or those who responded to chemotherapy were randomly assigned conventional therapy (fourth course of FE120C, followed by radiation therapy and 2 years of tamoxifen [40 patients]) or high-dose therapy (identical treatment but an additional high-dose regimen and peripheral-blood progenitor-cell [PBPC] support after the fourth FE120C course [41 patients]). This high-dose regimen comprised cyclophosphamide 6 g/m2, thiotepa 480 mg/m2, and carboplatin 1600 mg/m2. The primary endpoint was overall and disease-free survival. All analyses were by intention to treat. Findings. No patients died from toxic effects of chemotherapy. With a median follow-up of 49 (range 21-76) months, the 4-year overall and relapse-free survivals for all 97 patients were 75% and 54% respectively. There was no significant difference in survival between the patients on conventional therapy and those on high-dose therapy. Interpretation. High-dose therapy is associated with substantial cost and acute toxic effects, but also has potentially irreversible long-term effects. Until the benefit of this therapy is substantiated by large-scale phase III trials, high-dose chemotherapy should not be used in the adjuvant treatment of breast cancer, apart from in randomised studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-521
Number of pages7
Issue number9127
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 1998

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