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BACKGROUND:The purpose of this study was to determine the relative efficacy of doxorubicin versus methotrexate in combination with intravenous cyclophosphamide and 5-fluorouracil (FAC versus CMF) as adjuvant chemotherapy for operable breast cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS:Over a 4-year period, 985 women undergoing curative surgery for breast cancer (T1-3 N0-2 M0, stage I-IIIA, UICC) from nine hospitals were stratified with respect to axillary node involvement (node positive versus node negative) and randomized to receive either FAC (500/50/500/m(2)) every 3 weeks for six cycles or CMF (600/60/600/m(2)) every 3 weeks for six cycles. RESULTS:The relative dose intensities of FAC and CMF were 87% and 85% of planned doses, respectively. Unadjusted data indicated a non-significant trend towards better results with FAC. In the prospectively formed subset of node-negative patients, disease-free survival and overall survival were statistically superior in the FAC treatment arm (P = 0.041 and 0.034, respectively), but this advantage was not seen in the subset of node-positive patients, probably because of a difference in the percentage of patients with four or more positive nodes. Adjusting data for size of treatment effect and potential interactions (number of positive nodes, tumor size, treatment center), the overall relative risk (RR) of disease recurrence and death were significantly lower with FAC treatment (RR 1.2, P = 0.03, and RR 1.3, P = 0.05, respectively). This result was mainly due to the difference observed in the node-negative patient population. Toxicity was mild: FAC induced more alopecia, emesis, mucositis and cardiotoxicity; this last was of clinical concern, but was infrequent and manageable. CMF induced more conjunctivitis and weight gain. There were no toxic deaths. CONCLUSIONS:Doxorubicin in combination with day 1 i.v. cyclophosphamide and 5-fluorouracil is superior to methotrexate in combination with day 1 i.v. cyclophosphamide and 5-fluorouracil as adjuvant chemotherapy for operable breast cancer. A treatment effect is particularly evident in the node-negative patients. Although the clinical toxicity of FAC is greater than that of CMF, the levels were manageable and clinically acceptable.

Original publication




Journal article


Annals of oncology : official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology

Publication Date





833 - 842


Hospital Universitario San Carlos, Madrid, Spain.


GEICAM Group (Spanish Breast Cancer Research Group), Spain, Humans, Breast Neoplasms, Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent, Lymphatic Metastasis, Cyclophosphamide, Fluorouracil, Methotrexate, Doxorubicin, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Neoplasm Staging, Disease-Free Survival, Treatment Outcome, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Infusions, Intravenous, Survival Rate, Prospective Studies, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, Female