Letrozole as upfront endocrine therapy for postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer: BIG 1-98

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The BIG 1-98 trial is a large, randomized, independently conducted clinical trial designed to compare the efficacy of upfront letrozole versus tamoxifen monotherapy and to compare sequential or up-front use of letrozole and/or tamoxifen as an early adjuvant therapy for patients with early breast cancer. We report on the results from the primary core analysis of the BIG 1-98 trial of 8,010 patients, which compares monotherapy with letrozole versus tamoxifen. This pre-planned core analysis allowed the use of patient data from the monotherapy arms of letrozole and tamoxifen and from the sequential arms prior to the drug switch point. Patients randomized to letrozole had a 19% improved disease-free survival (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.81; P = 0.003), due especially to reduced distant metastases (HR = 0.73; P = 0.001). A 14% risk reduction of fatal events in favor of letrozole was also observed (P = NS). The results from the monotherapy arms alone confirmed the findings from the primary core analysis. Based on the results from this trial, the aromatase inhibitor letrozole (Femara®) is currently recommended as a part of standard adjuvant therapy for postmenopausal women with endocrine-responsive breast cancer and has recently been approved in the early adjuvant setting in both Europe and the United States. A subsequent analysis after additional follow-up will address the question of monotherapy versus sequential therapy.

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