Radiation Therapy Without Hormone Therapy for Women Age 70 or Above with Low-Risk Early Breast Cancer: A Microsimulation


      Hormone therapy without radiation therapy is considered appropriate for women age 70 or above with low-risk, hormone-positive breast cancer after partial mastectomy. However, some patients may prefer radiation without hormone therapy, for which there is minimal modern data. We modeled the comparative efficacy of aromatase inhibition alone without radiation versus radiation alone without hormone therapy.

      Methods and Materials

      We constructed a patient-level Markov model and compared 5 years of anastrozole to a 15-fraction course of radiation without boost or anastrozole. The relative effectiveness between treatments was based on the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project B-21 trial, which was further adjusted such that the endocrine-alone arm matched the Cancer and Leukemia Group B 9343 and PRIME II trials. Common or severe side effects were considered. Eight survival metrics were assessed and validated against clinical trial data. The cost-efficacy of each strategy was considered using the quality-adjusted life year and incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER).


      The model's predicted outcomes matched those demonstrated by modern trials. Aromatase inhibitors were superior in preventing contralateral cancers, with a small impact on the risk of distant metastatic disease. Radiation was superior in preventing ipsilateral breast tumor recurrence with a small impact on regional failure. No clinically significant differences were seen in the other 4 oncologic endpoints. Differences in quality-adjusted life years were small, but radiation therapy was $3809 more expensive over the average lifetime. The ICER suggested anastrozole was cost-effective in 62% of probabilistic simulations. However, the ICER was unstable owing to a denominator that approached zero.


      Women age 70 or above with low-risk early breast cancer who are reluctant or unable to pursue adjuvant aromatase inhibition can safely pursue adjuvant radiation alone with limited differences in outcome and a modest increase in costs.
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