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The recommendation for chemotherapy in early-stage breast cancer patients has been refined by the 21-gene Recurrence Score. However, uncertainty remains whether patients in the Intermediate Risk category benefit from chemotherapy.
We analyzed female patients from the National Cancer Database from 2006 to 2012 who had pT1c-T2N0M0 breast cancer, were ER/PR-positive and HER2-negative, received endocrine therapy, and had a 21-gene Recurrence Score from 11 to 25. We performed univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses to see what impacted chemotherapy receipt. We compared overall survival using Kaplan–Meier curves and the log-rank test. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to assess what variables impacted overall survival.
Of 21,991 patients who met all inclusion and exclusion criteria, 4646 (21.1%) received chemotherapy and 17,345 (78.9%) did not. Chemotherapy was more often received by patients who were younger (adjusted odds ratios (aORs) compared to age < 40 years, 0.48 for 40s, 0.34 for 50s, 0.20 for 60s, 0.10 for 70s, and 0.07 for 80+), had private insurance vs Medicare (aOR = 1.37), were from metro vs urban counties (aOR = 1.15), and were treated in community cancer centers vs academic programs (aOR = 1.26), and those with tumors of higher grade (grade 2 vs 1, aOR = 1.72; grade 3 vs 1, aOR = 3.76), higher tumor stage (pT2 vs pT1c, aOR = 1.62), or presence of lymphovascular invasion (LVI) (aOR = 1.41). At a median follow-up of 46.4 months, there was no significant difference in overall survival between patients who received chemotherapy vs those who did not (5-year estimated overall survival, 97.4% vs 97.8%, p = 0.89). On multivariable analysis, worse overall survival was associated with Black race, treatment at a community program, Medicaid, high-grade tumors, pT2 vs pT1c, higher Charlson–Deyo score, and no radiotherapy. Utilization trends showed that chemotherapy receipt in these patients has been decreasing from 25.8% in 2010 to 18.4% in 2013 (p < 0.001).
In these patients where the benefit of chemotherapy remains uncertain, current practices see chemotherapy more likely to be used in patients with younger age, higher pathologic T stage, higher grade tumors, and LVI. No apparent difference was seen in overall survival between those who received chemotherapy and those who did not.