Anthracycline Use for Early Stage Breast Cancer in the Modern Era: a Review

Sakshi Jasra, Jesus Anampa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Anthracycline-based regimens have been an important treatment component for patients with breast cancer. As demonstrated in the last Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG) meta-analysis, anthracycline-based regimens decrease breast cancer mortality by 20–30%. Anthracycline toxicities include the rare—but potential morbid—cardiotoxicity or leukemogenic effect, and the almost universal—but very distressing—alopecia. Due to potential toxicities, and large number of patients being exposed, several worldwide trials have re-examined the role of anthracycline-based regimens in the management of breast cancer. Current literature supports that anthracyclines are not required for all patients with breast cancer and should be avoided in those with high cardiac risk. Recent results from the ABC trials suggest that anthracyclines should not be spared for patients with triple negative breast cancer (regardless of axillary node involvement) or HER2−/ER+ with significant node involvement. Based on current literature, for HER2-negative patients with low-risk breast cancer, anthracyclines could be spared with regimens such as cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil (CMF) or docetaxel and cyclophosphamide (TC). Patients with intermediate or high-risk breast cancer should be considered for anthracycline-based regimens based on other factors such as age, comorbidities, tumor grade, lymphovascular invasion, and genomic profiling. Patients with HER2-positive breast cancer with low risk could be treated with paclitaxel and trastuzumab. For the remaining patients with HER2 overexpression, while docetaxel, carboplatin, and trastuzumab (TCH) has demonstrated to improve disease-free survival (DFS), anthracycline-containing regimens should be discussed, especially for those with very high-risk breast cancer. Although several biomarkers, such as topoisomerase II (TOP2A) and chromosome 17 centromeric duplication (Ch17CEP) have been proposed to predict benefit from anthracycline regimens, further research is required to delineate their proper utility in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30
JournalCurrent treatment options in oncology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Anthracyclines
  • Breast cancer
  • Cardiotoxicity
  • Taxanes
  • Trastuzumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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