Comparisons between different polychemotherapy regimens for early breast cancer: meta-analyses of long-term outcome among 100,000 women in 123 randomised trials

R. Peto, C. Davies, J. Godwin, R. Gray, H.C. Pan, Mike Clarke, D. Cutter, S. Darby, P. McGale, C. Taylor, Y.C. Wang, J. Bergh, A. Di Leo, K. Albain, S. Swain, M. Piccart, K. Pritchard

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Background Moderate di?erences in e?cacy between adjuvant chemotherapy regimens for breast cancer are plausible, and could a? ect treatment choices. We sought any such di?erences.

Methods We undertook individual-patient-data meta-analyses of the randomised trials comparing: any taxane-plusanthracycline-based regimen versus the same, or more, non-taxane chemotherapy (n=44 000); one anthracyclinebased regimen versus another (n=7000) or versus cyclo phosphamide, methotrexate, and ?uorouracil (CMF; n=18 000); and polychemotherapy versus no chemotherapy (n=32 000). The scheduled dosages of these three drugs and of the anthracyclines doxorubicin (A) and epirubicin (E) were used to de? ne standard CMF, standard 4AC, and CAF and CEF. Log-rank breast cancer mortality rate ratios (RRs) are reported.

Findings In trials adding four separate cycles of a taxane to a ?xed anthracycline-based control regimen, extending treatment duration, breast cancer mortality was reduced (RR 0·86, SE 0·04, two-sided signi?cance [2p]=0·0005). In trials with four such extra cycles of a taxane counterbalanced in controls by extra cycles of other cytotoxic drugs, roughly doubling non-taxane dosage, there was no signi?cant di?erence (RR 0·94, SE 0·06, 2p=0·33). Trials with CMF-treated controls showed that standard 4AC and standard CMF were equivalent (RR 0·98, SE 0·05, 2p=0·67), but that anthracycline-based regimens with substantially higher cumulative dosage than standard 4AC (eg, CAF or CEF) were superior to standard CMF (RR 0·78, SE 0·06, 2p=0·0004). Trials versus no chemotherapy also suggested greater mortality reductions with CAF (RR 0·64, SE 0·09, 2p<0·0001) than with standard 4AC (RR 0·78, SE 0·09, 2p=0·01) or
standard CMF (RR 0·76, SE 0·05, 2p<0·0001). In all meta-analyses involving taxane-based or anthracycline-based regimens, proportional risk reductions were little a? ected by age, nodal status, tumour diameter or di?erentiation (moderate or poor; few were well di?erentiated), oestrogen receptor status, or tamoxifen use. Hence, largely independently of age (up to at least 70 years) or the tumour characteristics currently available to us for the patients selected to be in these trials, some taxane-plus-anthracycline-based or higher-cumulative-dosage anthracycline-based regimens (not requiring stem cells) reduced breast cancer mortality by, on average, about one-third. 10-year overall mortality di?erences paralleled breast cancer mortality di?erences, despite taxane, anthracycline, and other toxicities.

Interpretation 10-year gains from a one-third breast cancer mortality reduction depend on absolute risks without chemotherapy (which, for oestrogen-receptor-positive disease, are the risks remaining with appropriate endocrine therapy). Low absolute risk implies low absolute bene?t, but information was lacking about tumour gene expression markers or quantitative immunohistochemistry that might help to predict risk, chemosensitivity, or both.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-444
Number of pages13
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number9814
Publication statusPublished - 04 Feb 2012

Bibliographical note

Unrecognised author: 'Early Breast Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group'


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