According to results recently presented at the European Conference on Clinical Oncology (ECCO), the chemotherapy combination consisting of Taxotere ® and Gemzar ® appears effective and well tolerated as initial therapy for patients with metastatic breast cancer who have received prior anthracycline therapy.
Breast cancer claims the lives of approximately 40,000 patients annually in the United States alone. Although cure are high for patients with breast cancer that has not spread from its site of origin, long-term survival remains dismal for patients with advanced breast cancer. Patients may be diagnosed with cancer that has spread regionally and receive treatment including chemotherapy, often consisting of a combination with an anthracycline (Adriamycin ® or Ellence ®). Unfortunately, patients may stop responding to their initial therapy and have cancer progression. Metastatic breast cancer refers to cancer that has spread from the breast to distant and/or several sites in the body, often invading vital organs such has the liver or bones. Standard treatment for metastatic breast cancer includes chemotherapy, which is most often delivered to improve duration of survival and/or quality of life and not with curative intent. Patients with metastatic breast cancer who have received prior therapy with an anthracycline are left with several options, the optimal of which has not yet been defined. Several clinical trials are ongoing that are direct comparisons of different chemotherapy agents and/or chemotherapy combinations in an attempt to define the most optimal treatment for this group of patients.
Taxotere ® (docetaxel) and Gemzar ® (gemcitabine) are two chemotherapy agents that demonstrate anti-cancer activity in several different types of cancer, including breast cancer. The two agents have cancer killing capabilities through separate biological pathways and are therefore an attractive combination for the treatment of breast cancer. Researchers recently conducted a small clinical trial to evaluate Taxotere ® plus Gemzar ® in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. This trial involved 36 patients who were HER-2/neu negative and who had received prior therapy with an anthracycline. The overall anti-cancer response to therapy was 54%, with 23% achieving a complete disappearance of cancer (complete response). The average time to cancer progression following therapy was 8 months. Treatment was well tolerated, with low levels of white blood cells being the most common side effect.
The researchers concluded that the chemotherapy combination consisting of Taxotere ® and Gemzar ® appears to provide significant anti-cancer activity and is well tolerated as initial therapy for metastatic breast cancer in patients treated with prior anthracyclines. Future larger clinical trials directly comparing this and other chemotherapy regimens for treatment of breast cancer in patients who have received prior anthracycline therapy are warranted. Patients with breast cancer who have received prior anthracycline therapy may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating Taxotere ®/Gemzar ® or other promising therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute ( cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com. Personalized clinical trials are also performed on behalf of patients at cancerconsultants.com.
Reference: Lenz F, Beldermann F, Geberth M, et al. A phase II study of first-line combination chemotherapy with docetaxel and gemcitabine in anthracycline-pretreated, Her-2 negative metastatic breast cancer. Proceedings from the 12th European Conference on Clinical Oncology. Sept. 21-25, 2003. Copenhagen, Denmark.