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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Frequent Chemo Ups Breast Cancer Survival

Reduces Cancer Recurrence With No More Side Effects

WebMD Health News

Dec. 12, 2002 (San Antonio, Texas) -- More frequent chemotherapy for breast cancer improves survival chances with few side effects, according to a landmark study presented at a meeting of specialists. Some experts are even calling for this to be the new standard of care.

Women who are given chemotherapy more frequently, called "dose-dense therapy," are 31% less likely to die, compared with those who undergo conventional treatment, the study by the National Cancer Institute's Breast Intergroup showed. And while there were worries that the new regimen would prove more toxic, that was not the case, the researchers said. The study was presented at the 25th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Based on the findings, some investigators said the new regimen should now be considered a standard for women with early breast cancer.

"Since breast cancer is so common, the new regimen could potentially save thousands of lives per year in the United States alone," says Larry Norton, MD, head of the division of solid tumor Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and senior researcher of the study.

Breast cancer is the second biggest cancer killer of women in the industrialized world, after lung cancer. It kills about 40,000 women each year in the U.S. alone.

The study enrolled nearly 2,000 women with first-time breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body. After undergoing surgery to remove their tumors, they were assigned to one of four treatments. Some women received chemotherapy under the dose-dense regimen -- every two weeks -- while other received the standard chemotherapy treatment -- every three weeks.

Several years later, researchers found that women on the dose-dense regimen were significantly less likely to suffer a recurrence or die from their cancer.

Among women on the dose-dense regimen, 82% were free of breast cancer four years later, compared with 75% of those who received conventional therapy.

And 92% of women on the dose-dense treatment were alive three years later, compared with 90% of those on the conventionally administered regimens.

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