High-Dose Chemo Effective for Advanced Breast Cancer: Study
German researchers find better recurrence and survival rates
FRIDAY, Dec. 2, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A regimen of high-dose chemotherapy improved both recurrence and overall survival rates for women with advanced breast cancer, a new German study found.
"Standard treatment may not be appropriate for women with breast cancer who are at a very high risk of recurrence," said Dr. Ulrike Nitz, lead author of the study, which appears in the Dec. 3 issue of The Lancet. "In this context, our trial really offers some hope for this subgroup of patients."
The findings, however, contradict some previous studies and have caused some experts to urge caution.
"It's an interesting study but it's still too early to make a definitive answer," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Baton Rouge, La.
Breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes has a poor prognosis, even after treatment by conventional methods.
For the new trial, more than 400 German women with advanced breast cancer (cancer that had spread to at least nine lymph nodes) were randomly assigned to receive two courses of accelerated, conventionally dosed chemotherapy followed by two courses of high-dose chemotherapy, or to receive a conventional chemotherapy regimen consisting of the same two courses of standard chemotherapy, explained Nitz, who is with the University of Dusseldorf in Germany.
After four years, "event-free" -- no recurrence -- survival was 60 percent in the high-dose chemotherapy group, and 44 percent in the conventional chemotherapy group.
Overall survival was 75 percent in the high-dose group and 70 percent in the other group. "Overall survival rates were significantly better," Nitz said.
Compared with other high-dose regimens, the side effects were mild, she added, consisting mainly of sore throat and mouth. And there were no treatment-related deaths.
"Most people think that when you have high-risk breast cancer that everybody dies. They don't," Brooks said. "Many people actually do well living with their disease. Overall survival is the gold standard in this particular setting and I would want more time to allow more maturing for this study."
"It's worth studying but it's not enough to change treatment today," he added.
To learn more about breast cancer and its treatment, visit the National Cancer Institute.