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Breast Cancer Health Center

New Breast Cancer Chemo Drug May Aid Survival

Study: Longer Cancer-Free Survival, Fewer Deaths With Taxotere Than With Older Chemo Drug
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WebMD Health News

June 1, 2005 -- The chemotherapy drug Taxotere may help women with breast cancer live longer while keeping the disease at bay.

That's in comparison to an older drug, fluorouracil, say researchers in The New England Journal of Medicine's June 2 edition.

Taxotere "significantly improves the rates of disease-free and overall survival among women with operable node-positive breast cancer," write researchers. Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Taxotere's maker, funded the study. Aventis is a WebMD sponsor.

4-Year Study

Doctors working on the study included Miguel Martin, MD, of the Hospital Universitario San Carlos in Madrid. Nearly 1,500 women with breast cancer took part. The women lived in 20 countries, were 18-70 years old, and were followed for about 4.5 years (on average).

The women had "node-positive" breast cancer, meaning the cancer had spread to their lymph nodes. Like millions of women with early breast cancer, they first got surgery and then chemotherapy. These anticancer drugs have been repeatedly shown to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back and the risk of death in women with breast cancer. They stop cancer growth by killing cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.

The women all got six cycles -- a day of chemotherapy treatment with periods of days or weeks off between treatments. They either got Taxotere or fluorouracil, along with two other standard chemotherapy drugs. Each group had similar numbers of women, and most completed all of the cycles (91% with Taxotere and 97% with fluorouracil).

Better Survival

After five years, three out of four women that received Taxotere had survived without cancer's return, compared with 68% of those that received fluorouracil. That amounts to a 28% cut in the risk of relapse with Taxotere, the study notes.

The reduction in breast cancer's return did not seem to be driven by certain risk factors that would make it more likely such as lymph node status or by HER2/neu status, they write. Disease-free survival was also independent of menopausal status, they say.

Overall five-year survival was 87% with Taxotere and 81% with fluorouracil, giving the Taxotere group a 30% lower risk of death.

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