Background: Axillary surgery after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) is becoming less extensive. We evaluated the evolution of axillary surgery after NAC on the multi-institutional I-SPY2 prospective trial.
Methods: We examined annual rates of sentinel lymph node (SLN) surgery with resection of clipped node, if present), axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), and SLN and ALND in patients enrolled in I-SPY2 from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2021 by clinical N status at diagnosis and pathologic N status at surgery. Cochran-Armitage trend tests were calculated to evaluate patterns over time.
Results: Of 1578 patients, 973 patients (61.7%) had SLN-only, 136 (8.6%) had SLN and ALND, and 469 (29.7%) had ALND-only. In the cN0 group, ALND-only decreased from 20% in 2011 to 6.25% in 2021 (p = 0.0078) and SLN-only increased from 70.0% to 87.5% (p = 0.0020). This was even more striking in patients with clinically node-positive (cN+) disease at diagnosis, where ALND-only decreased from 70.7% to 29.4% (p < 0.0001) and SLN-only significantly increased from 14.6% to 56.5% (p < 0.0001). This change was significant across subtypes (HR-/HER2-, HR+/HER2-, and HER2+). Among pathologically node-positive (pN+) patients after NAC (n = 525) ALND-only decreased from 69.0% to 39.2% (p < 0.0001) and SLN-only increased from 6.9% to 39.2% (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Use of ALND after NAC has significantly decreased over the past decade. This is most pronounced in cN+ disease at diagnosis with an increase in the use of SLN surgery after NAC. Additionally, in pN+ disease after NAC, there has been a decrease in use of completion ALND, a practice pattern change that precedes results from clinical trials.