Extended adjuvant endocrine therapy in breast cancer: Current status and future directions

Paul Goss, Hyman Muss, James Ingle, Timothy Whelan, Melinda Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer have traditionally been treated with 5 years of adjuvant tamoxifen to reduce their risk of subsequent recurrent disease. Among those who experience subsequent disease recurrence, the majority do so after 5 years, suggesting that longer durations of endocrine therapy might be beneficial. Two options tested include longer tamoxifen and, in postmenopausal women, a switch to an aromatase inhibitor (AI). In the National Cancer Institute of Canada Cooperative Trials Group MA.17 trial, we tested the AI letrozole given to postmenopausal women for 5 years after tamoxifen as extended adjuvant therapy because of its efficacy in patients with advanced breast cancer in progression on previous tamoxifen. The first interim analysis (median, 2.4 patient years) showed substantial benefits from letrozole, and all patients were unblinded and offered the option of letrozole. Despite two thirds of the patients crossing over to letrozole, an intent-to-treat analysis at 54 months' follow-up continued to demonstrate the strong beneficial effect of extended adjuvant letrozole. Furthermore, significant benefit was demonstrated among patients who had been randomized to placebo but elected to take letrozole after a prolonged washout from previous tamoxifen (late extended adjuvant therapy). A trial examining the merits of > 5 years of treatment with an AI, MA.17R, is ongoing, as are a number of other trials of duration of therapy. This article reviews results from MA.17 and the design of these trials of duration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-417
Number of pages7
JournalClinical breast cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Anastrozole
  • Aromatase inhibitors
  • Hormone receptor
  • Letrozole
  • Tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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