Efficacy and safety of endocrine monotherapy as first-line treatment for hormone-sensitive advanced breast cancer: A network meta-analysis

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Endocrine therapy was recommended as the preferred first-line treatment for hormone receptor-positive (HR+, i.e., ER+ and/or PgR+), human epidermal growth factor receptor-2-negative (HER2−) postmenopausal advanced breast cancer (ABC), but which endocrine monotherapy is optimal lacks consensus. We aimed to identify the optimal endocrine monotherapy with a network meta-analysis.


We performed a network meta-analysis for a comprehensive analysis of 6 first-line endocrine monotherapies (letrozole, anastrozole, exemestane, tamoxifen, fulvestrant 250 mg and 500 mg) for HR+ HER2− metastatic or locally advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal patients. The main outcomes were objective response rate (ORR), time to progression (TTP), and progression-free survival (PFS). Secondary outcomes were adverse events.


We identified 27 articles of 8 randomized controlled trials including 3492 patients in the network meta-analysis. For ORR, the treatments ranked in descending order of effectiveness were letrozole > exemestane > anastrozole > fulvestrant 500 mg > tamoxifen > fulvestrant 250 mg. For TTP/PFS, the order was fulvestrant 500 mg > letrozole > anastrozole > exemestane > tamoxifen > fulvestrant 250 mg. We directly compared adverse events and found that tamoxifen produced more hot flash events than fulvestrant 250 mg.


Fulvestrant 500 mg and letrozole might be optimal first-line endocrine monotherapy choices for HR+ HER2− ABC because of efficacious ORR and TTP/PFS, with a favorable tolerability profile. However, direct comparisons among endocrine monotherapies in the first-line therapy setting are still required to robustly demonstrate any differences among these endocrine agents. Clinical choices should also depend on the specific disease situation and duration of endocrine therapy.

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