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Top Breast Cancer Research Findings for the Past Year

Anita T. Shaffer
Published: Monday, Mar 09, 2015

Dr. Debu Tripathy

Debu Tripathy, MD

A new standard that recommends ovarian function suppression (OFS) therapy as a routine adjuvant treatment option for certain premenopausal women with higher risk, hormone receptor (HR)–positive breast cancer emerged as the most far-reaching medical oncology research finding in the field for 2014, according to Debu Tripathy, MD. Other noteworthy developments emanated from negative clinical trials and an early immunotherapy study.

These findings are among the 2014 highlights that Tripathy reviewed in an overview that was the annual feature of the Miami Breast Cancer Conference Feb. 26-March 1. Tripathy, who serves as one of the directors of the conference, is a professor and chair of the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

In all, Tripathy selected 12 abstracts from the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in June and the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) in December to focus upon during his presentation (Table).

SOFT Trial Maps New Option

The findings with the most practice-changing potential are the SOFT trial results reported at SABCS, Tripathy said in an interview in advance of his presentation. For the past 15 years, tamoxifen has been the standard adjuvant hormonal treatment after surgery for premenopausal patients with HR-positive early breast cancer, and guidelines tend to recommend against routinely adding OFS therapy.1

The SOFT investigators were seeking to determine whether adding OFS therapy to 5 years of either tamoxifen or exemestane reduced the risk of recurrence compared with tamoxifen alone for women with HR-positive breast cancer who either were premenopausal or remained so after receiving chemotherapy (Figure). OFS was achieved by choice of monthly injections of the gonadotropin-releasing hormonal agonist triptorelin, bilateral oophorectomy, or bilateral ovarian irradiation; 80.7% of those assigned to OFS during the trial received triptorelin.1

Overall, the addition of OFS therapy did not result in a statistically significant advantage in disease-free survival (DFS) when outcomes for the more than 3000 women who participated in the trial were compared in the primary analysis for tamoxifen plus OFS versus tamoxifen alone. At a median follow-up of 5.6 years, the addition of OFS to tamoxi¬fen resulted in a DFS rate of 86.6% compared with 84.7% for tamoxifen alone (HR = .83; 95% CI, 0.66-1.04; P = .10).2

In subset analyses, however, more robust differences emerged. For participants who were premenopausal after prior chemotherapy (average age of 40 years), OFS therapy reduced the risk of recurrence by 22% when added to tamox¬ifen and by 35% when combined with exemestane.

Among the 350 women aged <35 in the overall study population, 94% of whom had received chemotherapy, the 5-year DFS rates were 83.4% (95% CI, 74.9-89.3), 78.9% (95% CI, 69.8-85.5), and 67.7% (95% CI, 57.3-76.0), respectively, for patients treated with exemestane plus OFS, tamoxifen plus OFS, and tamoxifen alone. “The patients who seemed to benefit not only from the addition of ovarian blockade but also from the use of an aro¬matase inhibitor instead of tamoxifen were patients who had positive nodes, patients who received chemotherapy, and patients who were under the age of 35,” noted Tripathy. “All of these subgroups, essentially, were higher-risk patients.

“Now, it’s always difficult to interpret a study and make recommendations based on such subset analyses,” he continued. “But these findings have been shown in other studies of smaller size that have ovarian ablation as an additional therapy, particularly for younger patients under the age of 35.”

As a result, Tripathy said, “ovarian suppression with an aromatase inhibitor may actually be the preferred therapy” for patients who are node-positive, getting chemotherapy, are premenopausal and remain premenopausal, and for patients under the age of 35. In contrast, patients not receiving che¬motherapy had excellent outcomes with tamoxifen alone, with 98.6% remaining free of recurrence and 99.2% alive at 5 years.

The decision should still be made on a case-by-case basis, he added, noting that OFS therapy comes with more side effects. The most common adverse events of all grades for patients who received tamoxifen plus OFS compared with tamoxifen alone were hot flashes (93.4% vs 79.8%), depres¬sion (51.9% vs 46.6%), sweating (61.8% vs 48.3%), and insomnia (57.2% vs 46.3%).

Compelling Signals From Negative Trials


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TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: 16th Annual International Congress on the Future of Breast Cancer®Sep 29, 20182.0
School of Breast Oncology®: Mid-Year Video Update OnlineSep 30, 20182.0
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