A trial of a short course of hormone therapy before and after surgery for early breast cancer (POETIC)

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Breast cancer




Phase 3

This trial is looking at whether having hormone therapy for 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after surgery helps postmenopausal Open a glossary item women with breast cancer. This trial is supported by Cancer Research UK.

The first treatment for early breast cancer is usually surgery. After surgery, women who have hormone receptor positive breast cancer will have hormone therapy as part of their treatment. Most women have hormone therapy for at least 5 years. This helps to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back.

Drugs called aromatase inhibitors are a type of hormone therapy for women who have gone through the menopause Open a glossary item. In this trial, doctors want to find out if having an aromatase inhibitor for 2 weeks before and after surgery, as well as standard hormone therapy, helps reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back even more.

The researchers will also look at testing the cancer cells to see if there are any changes after a short course of hormone therapy. In the future, this may help doctors to work out which treatment is best for each individual patient. The aims of the trial are to

  • See if 4 weeks of an aromatase inhibitor at the time of surgery helps to reduce the risk of early breast cancer coming back
  • Find out if testing the cancer cells after 2 weeks of hormone therapy can help to predict how well a woman will respond to treatment

Who can enter

You can enter this trial if you

  • Have been diagnosed with hormone receptor positive breast cancer
  • Are over 50 years of age and either stopped having periods at least a year ago, or have had an operation to remove both ovaries (if you are under 55 and have recently had a hysterectomy Open a glossary item but still have your ovaries, or have taken HRT Open a glossary item in the last year, your doctor will do blood tests to see if you have gone through the menopause)
  • Are well enough to carry out all your normal activities, apart from heavy physical work (performance status 0 or 1)

You cannot enter this trial if you have

  • Cancer that cannot be removed with surgery or is locally advanced
  • Cancer that has spread somewhere else in your body (metastatic cancer)
  • Two or more tumours in your breast which have different hormone or protein receptors - the trial team can advise you about this
  • Had breast cancer before or have breast cancer in both breasts
  • Taken HRT or any other medicine containing oestrogen in the last 4 weeks
  • Have ever had oestrogen implants
  • Have been taking steroids Open a glossary item on a long term basis
  • Already had hormone therapy or chemotherapy for breast cancer
  • Had any other cancer in the last 5 years, apart from basal cell skin cancer or carcinoma in situ of the cervix
  • Any other serious medical condition
  • Had an experimental drug as part of another clinical trial in the last 4 weeks
  • Take steroids Open a glossary item on a long term basis

Trial design

This trial will recruit about 4,350 women. It is a randomised trial. The people taking part are put into one of 2 treatment groups. Neither you nor your doctor will be able to decide which group you are in. Two thirds of the women will be in group 1, and one third will be in group 2.

Women in group 1 will take an aromatase inhibitor each day for 2 weeks before surgery and 2 weeks after. Some hospitals will use a drug called anastrozole, others will use letrozole. After surgery, the women in this group will have the standard treatment appropriate for their situation.

Women in group 2 will have surgery, followed by the standard treatment appropriate for their situation.

Taking part in the trial will not delay your surgery.

The researchers will collect samples of tissue

  • Taken when you had a biopsy to diagnose breast cancer
  • At the time of your surgery to remove breast cancer

They will be able to compare the tissue samples from women who have and have not had an aromatase inhibitor before surgery.

The trial team will also ask to take blood samples from you

  • At the beginning of the trial
  • When you have surgery
  • On one occasion after surgery

If you don’t want to give these extra blood samples for research you don’t have to. You can still take part in the trial.

Hospital visits

You will have extra blood tests when you join the trial and again 2 weeks after surgery. Other than that, there will be no extra hospital visits as a result of taking part in this trial.

Side effects

The side effects of aromatase inhibitors are usually mild but include

  • Joint stiffness
  • Tiredness
  • Hot flushes
  • Vaginal dryness or irritation
  • Slight hair thinning
  • Headache

There is more information about anastrozole and letrozole on CancerHelp UK.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Ian Smith

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/07/015. 

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Harriet wanted to try new treatments

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“I was keen to go on a clinical trial. I wanted to try new cancer treatments and hopefully help future generations.”

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