Importance: The benefit of internal mammary node irradiation (IMNI) for treatment outcomes in node-positive breast cancer is unknown. Objective: To investigate whether the inclusion of IMNI in regional nodal irradiation improves disease-free survival (DFS) in women with node-positive breast cancer. Design, Setting, and Participants: This multicenter, phase 3 randomized clinical trial was conducted from June 1, 2008, to February 29, 2020, at 13 hospitals in South Korea. Women with pathologically confirmed, node-positive breast cancer after breast-conservation surgery or mastectomy with axillary lymph node dissection were eligible and enrolled between November 19, 2008, and January 14, 2013. Patients with distant metastasis and those who had received neoadjuvant treatment were excluded. Data analyses were performed according to the intention-to-treat principle. Interventions: All patients underwent regional nodal irradiation along with breast or chest wall irradiation. They were randomized 1:1 to receive radiotherapy either with IMNI or without IMNI. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was the 7-year DFS. Secondary end points included the rates of overall survival, breast cancer-specific survival, and toxic effects. Results: A total of 735 women (mean [SD] age, 49.0 [9.1] years) were included in the analyses, of whom 373 received regional nodal irradiation without IMNI and 362 received regional nodal irradiation with IMNI. Nearly all patients underwent taxane-based adjuvant systemic treatment. The median (IQR) follow-up was 100.4 (89.7-112.1) months. The 7-year DFS rates did not significantly differ between the groups treated without IMNI and with IMNI (81.9% vs 85.3%; hazard ratio [HR], 0.80; 95% CI, 0.57-1.14; log-rank P =.22). However, an ad hoc subgroup analysis showed significantly higher DFS rates with IMNI among patients with mediocentrally located tumors. In this subgroup, the 7-year DFS rates were 81.6% without IMNI vs 91.8% with IMNI (HR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.22-0.82; log-rank P =.008), and the 7-year breast cancer mortality rates were 10.2% without IMNI vs 4.9% with IMNI (HR, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.17-0.99; log-rank P =.04). No differences were found between the 2 groups in the incidence of adverse effects, including cardiac toxic effects and radiation pneumonitis. Conclusions and Relevance: This randomized clinical trial found that including IMNI in regional nodal irradiation did not significantly improve the DFS in patients with node-positive breast cancer. However, patients with medially or centrally located tumors may benefit from the use of IMNI. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04803266.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding/Support: This work was supported by grant 0820010 from the National R&D Program for Cancer Control of the Ministry for Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs of Korea (Dr Suh). On behalf of the Ministry, the National Cancer Center of Korea and the Korean Radiation Oncology Group supported the study coordination, including the randomization process; provided an electronic data management system; and evaluated the authors’ report annually.
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