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Breast Cancer Survivors: Managing Treatment Side Effects

Sometimes the cure feels worse than the disease. But new drugs and therapies help reduce the ill effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

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Late in 2004, the FDA approved one of these drugs, Kepivance, for the treatment of mouth sores caused by high-dose chemotherapy regimens for leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma. It's "not ready for prime time" in breast cancer treatment yet, says Seidman, but studies are ongoing.

Also in development: a potential remedy for neuropathy (or nerve damage), one of the most debilitating side effects of the commonly used chemotherapy drugs Taxol and Taxotere. "Both drugs can cause nerve damage, which can range from mild numbness to severe pain that can interfere with motor function," says Seidman.

All kinds of remedies have been tried, but none have proven their mettle in clinical trials. Now, researchers are studying a new drug, Tavocept, in the U.S. and abroad for its potential to protect against this neuropathy. The manufacturer, Bionumerik, reports that it's shown promise in phase III clinical trials, and has been granted "fast track" research status by the FDA. "If it works, it would be a real first-in-class drug," Seidman says.

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