Psychological factors can predict the response to primary chemotherapy in patients with locally advanced breast cancer

L G Walker, Steven Darryll Heys, M B Walker, K Ogston, Iain D Miller, A W Hutcheon, T K Sarkar, A K Ah-See, O Eremin

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This study evaluated the possible value of psychological variables in predicting clinical and pathological response to primary chemotherapy. 96 women with newly diagnosed large, or locally advanced, breast cancer (T-2 > 4 cm, T-3, T-4, N-2 and M-0) participated in a prospective, randomised trial to evaluate the effects of relaxation training with guided imagery and L-arginine on response to primary chemotherapy. Before the first of six cycles of primary chemotherapy, women were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ). The primary outcomes were clinical response (evaluated using standard International Union Against Cancer (UICC) criteria) and pathological response (graded by means of a previously published 5-point scale) following primary chemotherapy. Stepwise linear regressions mere used to estimate the predictive value of age, menopausal status, clinical nodal status, tumour size at diagnosis, oestrogen receptor status, dietary supplementation (L-arginine versus placebo), personality (EPQ-L scores), mood (HADS scores) and a psychological intervention. HADS depression score was a significant independent predictor of pathological response to chemotherapy. HADS anxiety score was a significant independent predictor of clinical response. Because the original tumour size before chemotherapy (also a significant predictor of clinical and pathological responses) was taken into account in the analyses, the results cannot be explained in terms of psychobiological factors related to tumour size. This study supports the importance of psychological factors as independent predictors of response to primary chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer. If they can be replicated, these findings have major implications for the management of women with breast cancer. Psychological factors need to be assessed and evaluated in future trials of chemotherapy. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1783-1788
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chemotherapy
  • breast cancer
  • treatment response
  • quality of life
  • colorectal liver metastases
  • neoadjuvant chemotherapy
  • dietary supplementation
  • radiation therapy
  • prognostic value
  • L-arginine
  • survival
  • management
  • carcinoma


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