The combination of two chemotherapy medicines, Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin) and Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide), often referred to as AC, is commonly used after surgery to treat any breast cancer cells that may remain the body and to lower the risk that the cancer will come back.
A study found that women who got a combination of Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel) and Cytoxan, referred to as TC, had a 31% better chance of survival than women who got the AC combination. In addition to either chemotherapy combination, many women in the study also received radiation therapy and hormonal therapy (if the cancer was hormone-receptor-positive).
These results reinforce the results of earlier research. Taxotere belongs to a group of medicines called taxanes. Other taxanes include Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) and Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound paclitaxel). Adriamycin belongs to a group of medicines called anthracyclines.
These results were presented at the 2007 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. While not mentioned in this article, other results presented at the meeting showed that only 8% of all newly diagnosed breast cancers will respond to Adriamycin or other anthracyclines. These cancers that respond to anthracyclines are HER2-positive and also have an abnormal Topo IIa gene. The research suggests that the other 92% of breast cancers should be treated with different types of chemotherapy medicines.
Adriamycin and other anthracyclines are common chemotherapy medicines for breast cancer. But anthracyclines can have some troubling side effects, including the risk of potentially permanent heart damage. Anthracyclines also can increase the risk of leukemia. Avoiding these risks by choosing a different type of chemotherapy combination such as TC makes sense. Especially if that chemotherapy combination works better.
Still, all chemotherapy medicines cause side effects. Taxotere can cause a number of side effects including nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and pain and tingling in the hands and feet (neuropathy). These side effects usually go away after treatment is done.
Based on this and other research studies, TC may replace AC as a standard chemo combination to treat breast cancer. If you're deciding on a chemotherapy treatment plan with your doctor, you might want to ask whether the TC combination would be a good option for you. Your doctor will consider factors such as:
- your age
- your overall health
- the size of the cancer
- hormone receptor status
- HER2 status
- cancer grade
- the cancer's genetic profile
when recommending a specific treatment plan. Together, you and your doctor will develop a treatment plan that's best for YOU.