Adding Taxotere to Standard Chemo Doesn’t Seem to Help Treat Early-Stage Breast Cancer

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The chemotherapy medicine Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel) is approved to be used in combination with other chemotherapy medicines to treat early-stage breast cancer. Still, doctors continued to study exactly how beneficial Taxotere was in treating early-stage breast cancer.

A large study found that women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer who got Taxotere after one of two standard chemotherapy regimens did about the same as women who didn't get Taxotere. The women who got Taxotere were more likely to have serious side effects because of the Taxotere.

Chemotherapy often is used after breast cancer surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back. This type of chemotherapy -- called adjuvant chemotherapy -- aims to weaken and destroy any cancer cells that may be left behind after surgery.

More than 4,000 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in Great Britain participated in the study. All the women received one of two standard adjuvant chemotherapy regimens after surgery:

  • 5-fluorouracil, Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin), and Cytoxan (chemical name: cyclophosphamide), commonly referred to as FEC; this regimen is used more in the United Kingdom and Europe than in the United States
  • cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil, commonly referred to as CMF; this regimen is commonly used in both the United States and the United Kingdom

After receiving one of these two standard regimens, half of the women also got Taxotere.

The researchers found:

  • The risk of the breast cancer coming back (recurrence) during the 5 years after diagnosis was the same for ALL the women in the study. This means that Taxotere didn't lower the risk of the breast cancer coming back.
  • The chances of surviving during the 5 years after diagnosis also were the same for ALL the women in the study. This means that Taxotere didn't improve survival.
  • The risk of serious chemotherapy-related side effects was higher in women who got Taxotere.

Even though this study didn't show any overall benefits to making Taxotere part of adjuvant chemotherapy to treat early-stage breast cancer, the researchers pointed out that the way individual cancers respond to Taxotere can vary widely. So other research might show that early-stage breast cancers with certain characteristics will respond to Taxotere.

Taxotere also is approved to treat advanced and metastatic breast cancer after other chemotherapy medicines have stopped working. This study didn't look at using Taxotere to treat advanced/metastatic breast cancer.

If you've been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, your treatment plan will take into account your unique situation and any research results that pertain to your situation. If your doctor recommends including Taxotere in your adjuvant chemotherapy treatment plan, ask how the results of the study reviewed here might apply to your situation. Together, you and your doctor can decide on the treatment plan that is best for YOU.

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