Taxol Weekly Better Than Every Three Weeks for Breast Cancer

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A study found that getting Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) weekly had more benefits than getting Taxol every 3 weeks for women diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes or women diagnosed with breast cancer that hadn't spread to the lymph nodes but was considered high risk. Getting Taxol every week also had more benefits than getting Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel) weekly or every 3 weeks for these women.

In this study of 5,000 women, more women who received Taxol once a week were likely to be alive and free of breast cancer 5 years after being diagnosed compared to women who received Taxol every 3 weeks OR women who received Taxotere (either weekly or every 3 weeks). All the women received Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin) and Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide) before receiving either Taxol or Taxotere.

For women diagnosed with early-stage, lymph-node-positive breast cancer, treatment often includes chemotherapy with Adriamycin and Cytoxan followed by a taxane. This chemotherapy regimen is sometimes called AC followed by T. Taxol, Taxotere, and Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel) are all taxanes. In the AC followed by T regimen, a taxane is usually given as 4 treatments over 12 weeks -- 1 treatment every 3 weeks.

In this study, the researchers compared the usual schedule of giving Taxol or Taxotere every 3 weeks to a different schedule that gave a lower dose of Taxol or Taxotere every week for 12 weeks. The women who got Taxol every week were 27% more likely to be alive and free of breast cancer 5 years after diagnosis compared to those who received the standard Taxol treatment schedule. The women who got Taxol every week also were more likely to be alive 5 years after diagnosis compared to women who got Taxotere (either weekly or every 3 weeks). Abraxane was not looked at in this study.

For each medicine and treatment schedule the chances of being alive 5 years after diagnosis are:

  • Taxol once a week: 89.7%
  • Taxol once every 3 weeks: 86.5%
  • Taxotere once every 3 weeks: 87.3%
  • Taxotere once a week: 86.2%

Some doctors have wondered whether a taxane has benefits for women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. This study found that women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer did benefit from getting a taxane.

Women who got Taxol or Taxotere once a week instead of every 3 weeks seemed to have less severe side effects from the chemotherapy. This is probably because each Taxol or Taxotere dose was slightly less than half the standard dose. On the other hand, these women had to get treatment every week instead of every 3 weeks. It may be harder to plan your life around getting treatment every week than getting treatment every 3 weeks.

If chemotherapy that includes a taxane is going to be a part of your treatment plan, you might want to talk to your doctor about this study and consider asking these questions:

  • Which taxane (Taxol, Taxotere, or Abraxane) is recommended for me? Why?
  • Which treatment schedule (weekly or every 3 weeks) is recommended? Why?

In the breastcancer.org Chemotherapy section you can learn more about how chemo works, when it's used, and the combinations that might be used.

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