Methods: We compared characteristics and outcomes of breast cancer patients (n = 1325) who participated in a randomized clinical trial (Tamoxifen Exemestane Adjuvant Multinational trial) with unselected breast cancer patients of corresponding age from the general population (n = 1056). Dutch patients aged 65 years or older at diagnosis of hormone receptor–positive breast cancer without distant metastases, with either nodal involvement, a tumor greater than 3cm, or a 1 to 3cm histological grade III tumor, who completed local therapy were included. Analyses were stratified by age (65–74 years; ≥75 years). Primary outcome was overall mortality. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the association between covariables and overall mortality. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Results: Irrespective of age, patients who participated in the trial had fewer comorbid diseases, a higher socioeconomic status, and smaller tumors (all P < .001). In patients aged 65 to 74 years, those who participated in the trial had a similar overall mortality to patients from the general population (multivariable hazard ratio [HR] = 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.73 to 1.60). Alternatively, in patients aged 75 years or older, those who participated in the trial had a lower overall mortality (multivariable HR = 0.72; 95% CI = 0.55 to 0.95; P = .02) than patients in the general population.
Conclusions: Breast cancer trial participants aged 75 years or older do not represent elderly breast cancer patients of corresponding age from the general population, which hampers the external validity of a trial.