Adjuvant therapy of the very young woman
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Women under 35 or 40 with primary breast cancer have a poor prognosis independent of other factors [Albain K, Allred C, Clark G. Breast cancer outcome and predictors of outcome: are there age differentials? J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 1994;35-42]. In some recent studies, however, age is not independent in multivariate analyses, which include gene signatures [Van De Vijver M, He YD, Van'T Veer L, et al. A gene-expression signature as a predictor of survival in breast cancer. N Engl J Med 2002;347:1999-2009.(132)]. Dissection of such molecular signatures may identify mechanisms, which can be targeted. Today, positive estrogen receptors identify women who require endocrine therapy, and HER2/neu positivity those who require herceptin and also benefit most from anthracyclines. Locoregional recurrences are also more common in younger women. Radiation boost therapy can reduce in-breast recurrence [Bartelink H, Horiot JC, Poortmans PM, Struikmans H, et al. Impact of radiation dose on local control, fibrosis and survival after breast conserving treatment: 10 year results of the EORTC trial 22881-10882. Br Cancer Res Treat 2006;100:S8-10]. There are also particular quality of life issues in young women, for whom fertility concerns and symptoms of premature menopause loom large. Some young women with lower risk may be candidates for endocrine therapy alone but it may be difficult to identify these with current prognostic and predictive factors. In the future more sophisticated molecular factors may identify those who require hormones alone, chemotherapy alone, newer biologic therapies, or combinations of these approaches.
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