Ixempra Approved to Treat Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ixempra (chemical name: ixabepilone -- pronounced icks-a-bep-ih-loan) to treat advanced breast cancer after other chemotherapy treatments have stopped working. Ixempra was approved to be given either alone or in combination with Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine).

Research has shown that advanced breast cancers that were not responding to standard chemotherapy treatments had a better response when Ixempra was used. Compared to Xeloda alone, giving Ixempra with Xeloda stopped the cancer's progression longer. It's not clear yet whether using Ixempra can actually improve survival in women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

Ixempra belongs to a new class of medicines called epothilones. Ixempra works a lot like the taxanes (Taxol, Abraxane, and Taxotere are all taxanes). Ixempra and the taxanes work against cancer by interfering with how the cancer cells divide and multiply. Researchers think that Ixempra might work better against advanced breast cancer than some other chemotherapy medicines because it may be harder for cancers to stop responding to Ixempra.

When a cancer stops responding to a treatment that used to work, doctors say the cancer has become resistant to that treatment. Resistance happens when cancer cells figure out how to survive against treatments. This might happen when a treatment kills the cells it can, but doesn't work against EVERY cancer cell. The cells that survive treatment are called resistant cells. These resistant cells eventually grow. Sometimes more courses of the same treatment, maybe at a higher dose, might be able to get rid of all the resistant cancer cells. But sometimes different treatments are necessary. So a chemotherapy that makes it harder for cancer cells to resist treatment could be a good option.

Stay tuned to breastcancer.org for the latest news on breast cancer treatment options.

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