Axillary Dissection and Nodal Irradiation Can Be Avoided for Most Node-positive Z0011-eligible Breast Cancers: A Prospective Validation Study of 793 Patients

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To determine rates of axillary dissection (ALND) and nodal recurrence in patients eligible for ACOSOG Z0011.


Z0011 demonstrated that patients with cT1-2N0 breast cancers and 1 to 2 involved sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) having breast-conserving therapy had no difference in locoregional recurrence or survival after SLN biopsy alone or ALND. The generalizability of the results and importance of nodal radiotherapy (RT) is unclear.


Patients eligible for Z0011 had SLN biopsy alone. Prospectively defined indications for ALND were metastases in ≥3 SLNs or gross extracapsular extension. Axillary imaging was not routine. SLN and ALND groups and radiation fields were compared with chi-square and t tests. Cumulative incidence of recurrences was estimated with competing risk analysis.


From August 2010 to December 2016, 793 patients met Z0011 eligibility criteria and had SLN metastases. Among them, 130 (16%) had ALND; ALND did not vary based on age, estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, or HER2 status. Five-year event-free survival after SLN alone was 93% with no isolated axillary recurrences. Cumulative 5-year rates of breast + nodal and nodal + distant recurrence were each 0.7%. In 484 SLN-only patients with known RT fields (103 prone, 280 supine tangent, 101 breast + nodes) and follow-up ≥12 months, the 5-year cumulative nodal recurrence rate was 1% and did not differ significantly by RT fields.


We confirm that even without preoperative axillary imaging or routine use of nodal RT, ALND can be avoided in a large majority of Z0011-eligible patients with excellent regional control. This approach has the potential to spare substantial numbers of women the morbidity of ALND.

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