Extended adjuvant endocrine therapy in hormone-receptor-positive early breast cancer

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Purpose of review

The risk of relapse associated with oestrogen receptor-positive early breast cancer persists for at least 15 years after diagnosis. Several large clinical trials have examined extended adjuvant endocrine therapy.

Recent findings

The MA.17 trial demonstrated improved disease-free survival (DFS) with use of letrozole for 5 years after some years of tamoxifen and an overall survival advantage for this approach in women with node-positive oestrogen receptor-positive cancer at diagnosis. The subsequent adjuvant tamoxifen – to offer more? and adjuvant tamoxifen: longer against shorter trials demonstrated a DFS advantage for 10 years of tamoxifen over 5 years. The recently reported MA.17R trial randomized women who had already completed 5 years of aromatase inhibitor therapy with or without previous tamoxifen to further 5 years of letrozole or placebo. DFS was significantly improved in the extended letrozole group, quality of life was similar but bone fracture rates were higher. The absolute benefit in terms of reduced distant recurrences in these studies is modest, and tolerability and compliance challenges remain.


Physicians and patients now have multiple evidence-based treatment options for women who complete 5 years of adjuvant endocrine therapy. Extended therapy with either tamoxifen or letrozole should be considered for all and decision based on menopausal status, individual risk, tolerance and magnitude of potential benefit.

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