World Journal of Surgical Oncology

, 2:16

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Results of chemical pleurodesis with mitoxantrone in malignant pleural effusion from breast cancer

  • Nikolaos BarbetakisAffiliated withThoracic Surgery Department, Theagenion Cancer Hospital Email author 
  • , Theodoros AntoniadisAffiliated withThoracic Surgery Department, Theagenion Cancer Hospital
  • , Christodoulos TsilikasAffiliated withThoracic Surgery Department, Theagenion Cancer Hospital



Carcinoma of the breast is the second leading cause of malignant pleural effusions. This study reports on the efficacy of mitoxantrone as a sclerosing agent in patients with breast cancer who had a pleural effusion as a direct consequence of metastatic disease.

Patients and methods

Over a 5-year period, 114 patients with a known breast malignancy and having recurrent symptomatic pleural effusion referred for chest tube drainage and sclerotherapy were considered eligible. They had received no prior intrapleural therapy and had a predicted survival of >1 month. All of them underwent pleural drainage and chemical pleurodesis with mitoxantrone. Survival, complications and response to pleurodesis according to clinical and radiographic criteria were recorded. The data are expressed as the mean ± standard error of the mean (SEM) and the median. The χ2 test was used for statistical analysis. To assess the prognostic value of Karnofsky's performance status score a Cox proportional hazards model was used.


The mean age of the patients was 53.5 ± 2.1 years. Effusion occurred after 38.2 ± 6.2 months (range: 1–229 months) after the diagnosis. Ipsilateral effusion was seen in 73%, contralateral in 20% and bilateral in 7%. Forty patients (35%) had pleural effusion as the first evidence of recurrence. The mean volume of effusion drained was 1020 ± 125 ml and the chest tube was removed within 5 days in 82% of patients. Side effects of chemical pleurodesis included mainly fever, chest pain, nausea and vomiting. At 30 days 64 patients (56.3%) had a complete response (CR) and 30 patients (26.3%) partial response (PR) to pleurodesis (overall response: 82.6%). At 60 days the overall response was 78.5% (CR:53.5%, PR: 25%). The mean survival was 15.6 ± 2 months. Karnofsky's performance status score was found to be a statistically significant predictor. Patients with Karnofsky's performance status score >70 had a median survival of 513 days, as opposed to a median survival of only 63 days for patients with a Karnofsky's performance status score <30.


Mitoxantrone is effective in the treatment of malignant pleural effusion due to breast carcinoma with relatively low local or systemic toxicity. Karnofsky's performance status score at the time of pleurodesis is predictive of survival.


malignant pleural effusion breast cancer mitoxantrone Karnofsky performance status