Letrozole in the extended adjuvant setting: MA.17

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Relapse after completing adjuvant tamoxifen therapy is a persistent threat for women with hormone-responsive breast cancer. Third-generation aromatase inhibitors, such as letrozole, provide a new option for extended adjuvant hormonal therapy after 5 years of tamoxifen. MA.17 was conducted to determine whether letrozole improves outcome after discontinuation of tamoxifen. Postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer (N = 5,187) were randomized to letrozole 2.5 mg or placebo once daily for 5 years. At a median follow-up of 30 months, letrozole significantly improved disease-free survival (DFS; P < 0.001), the primary end point, compared with placebo (hazard ratio [HR] for recurrence or contralateral breast cancer 0.58; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.45, 0.76] P < 0.001). Furthermore, letrozole significantly improved distant DFS (HR = 0.60; 95% CI 0.43, 0.84; P = 0.002) and, in women with node-positive tumors, overall survival (HR = 0.61; 95% CI 0.38, 0.98; P = 0.04). Clinical benefits, including an overall survival advantage, were also seen in women who crossed over from placebo to letrozole after unblinding, indicating that tumors remain sensitive to hormone therapy despite a prolonged period since discontinuation of tamoxifen. The efficacy and safety of letrozole therapy beyond 5 years is being assessed in a re-randomization study, following the emergence of new data suggesting that clinical benefit correlates with the duration of letrozole. MA.17 showed that letrozole is extremely well-tolerated relative to placebo. Letrozole should be considered for all women completing tamoxifen; new results from the post-unblinding analysis suggest that letrozole treatment should also be considered for all disease-free women for periods up to 5 years following completion of adjuvant tamoxifen.

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