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Open Access Research article

Late tamoxifen in patients previously operated for breast cancer without postoperative tamoxifen: 5-year results of a single institution randomised study

Andrea Veronesi1, GianMaria Miolo1, Maria D Magri1, Diana Crivellari1, Simona Scalone1, Ettore Bidoli2* and Davide Lombardi1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Medical Oncology C, National Cancer Institute, Via Franco Gallini 2, 33081 Aviano, Italy

2 Epidemiology Unit, National Cancer Institute, Via Franco Gallini 2, 33081 Aviano, Italy

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:205  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-205

Published: 14 May 2010



A population of breast cancer patients exists who, for various reasons, never received adjuvant post-operative tamoxifen (TAM). This study was aimed to evaluate the role of late TAM in these patients.


From 1997 to 2003, patients aged 35 to 75 years, operated more than 2 years previously for monolateral breast cancer without adjuvant TAM, with no signs of metastases and no contraindication to TAM were randomized to TAM 20 mg/day orally for 2 years or follow-up alone. Events were categorized as locoregional relapse, distant metastases, metachronous breast cancer, tumours other than breast cancer and death from any causes, whichever occurred first. The sample size (197 patients per arm, plus 10% allowance) was based on the assumption of a 30% decrease in the number of events occurring at a rate of 5% annually in the 10 years following randomization. Four hundred and thirty-three patients were randomized in the study (TAM 217, follow-up 216). Patients characteristics (TAM/follow-up) included: median age 55/55 years, median time from surgery 25/25 months (range, 25-288/25-294), in situ carcinoma 18/24, oestrogen receptor (ER) positive in 75/68, negative in 70/57, unknown in 72/91 patients. Previous adjuvant treatment included chemotherapy in 131/120 and an LHRH analogue in 11/13 patients.


Thirty-six patients prematurely discontinued TAM after a median of 1 month, mostly because of subjective intolerance. Eighty-three events (TAM 39, follow-up 44) occurred: locoregional relapse in 10/8, distant metastases in 14/16, metachronous breast cancer in 4/10, other tumours in 11/10 patients. Less ER-positive secondary breast cancers occurred in the TAM treated patients than in follow-up patients (1 vs 10, p = 0.005). Event-free survival was similar in both groups of patients.


This 5-year analysis revealed significantly less metachronous ER-positive breast cancers in the TAM treated patients. No other statistically significant differences have emerged thus far.