Breast surgery in cases of de novo metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is associated with improved outcomes in retrospective studies, although the results of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are conflicting. We aimed to investigate whether surgery in this context prolongs patient survival.
We performed a systematic review of the literature to identify RCTs comparing surgery of primary breast cancer to no surgery in patients with de novo MBC. Cochrane Library, Embase, Medline (OVID), and Web of Science were searched with latest update in July 2023, while conference proceedings were manually searched. Data concerning patient and tumor characteristics, as well as outcomes, were extracted. A meta-analysis with random effects models was performed considering heterogeneity between trials.
Overall, 3255 entries were identified and 5 RCTs fulfilled all inclusion criteria, which had enrolled 1381 patients. The overall estimation in the intention-to-treat population showed no benefit for patients who had surgical excision of the primary breast tumor (HR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.76-1.14). No subgroups in terms of receptor status or patterns of metastasis seemed to benefit from surgery, except for younger/premenopausal patients (HR = 0.74, 95% CI, 0.58-0.94). Breast surgery was associated with improved local progression-free survival (HR = 0.37, 95% CI, 0.19-0.74).
Surgery of the primary tumor in patients with de novo MBC does not prolong survival, except possibly in younger/premenopausal patients. Breast surgery should be offered within the context of well-designed clinical trials examining the issue.