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Capecitabine Linked to Benefit in Breast Cancer Patients

Drug associated with more recurrence-free survival, but adverse events found to be common

MONDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A chemotherapy regimen including capecitabine is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence compared to a combination of standard drugs, according to research published online Nov. 10 in The Lancet.

Heikki Joensuu, M.D., of the Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,500 women with breast cancer at medium to high risk of recurrence. Women were randomized to a group receiving capecitabine and docetaxel followed by cyclophosphamide, epirubicin and capecitabine, or a control group receiving docetaxel followed by cyclophosphamide, epirubicin and fluorouracil.

The researchers note that the capecitabine group showed better recurrence-free survival after nearly three years of follow-up (93 versus 89 percent). Patients in the capecitabine group had more grade three or four diarrhea and hand-foot syndrome, and patients in the control group had more grade three or four neutropenia and myalgia. More patients in the capecitabine group discontinued their scheduled treatment (24 versus 3 percent), typically due to adverse events.

"Although the findings of this trial are not practice-changing, they are intriguing and could merit further assessment in a larger trial. However, the significant toxicity noted with the addition of capecitabine to the taxane-anthracycline backbone dampens enthusiasm for further studies of this approach. More importantly, it is imperative that we take a more rational approach to the treatment of early-stage breast cancer by tailoring our treatment approaches to molecular phenotypes," writes the author of an accompanying editorial.

The study was partly funded by Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, and AstraZeneca. Several co-authors reported financial relationships with Roche or Sanofi-Aventis.

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