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Chemotherapy Superior to New Drug for Early Breast Cancer
Date:5/13/2009

Standard treatment prolonged survival in older women, study finds ,,,,

WEDNESDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- Older women with early-stage breast cancer do better after standard chemotherapy than they do with the oral drug capecitabine (Xeloda), a new study finds.

"After three years, 85 percent of people who received chemotherapy were doing well, and 68 percent of people who received capecitabine were doing well," said lead researcher Dr. Hyman Muss, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"In this trial, we had hoped that it [capecitabine] would be as good as standard therapy, so we would have a pill treatment with less side effects, but it turned out it wasn't as good," Muss said.

The report is published in the May 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Because it has fewer side effects, capecitabine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in patients with advanced breast and colon cancer. Used in this context, it improves quality of life and may extend life for several months, the researchers said.

For the study, Muss and colleagues randomly assigned 600 women aged 65 and older with early-stage breast cancer to standard treatment with a combination of chemotherapy drugs or capecitabine.

Women taking capecitabine were roughly twice as likely to have a relapse of their cancer or die, the researchers found. Three years after treatment, 85 percent of women who received standard chemotherapy were alive and cancer-free compared with 68 percent of the women who received capecitabine, the team found.

The greatest benefit of chemotherapy was among the minority of women with hormone receptor-negative breast cancer, Muss said.

However, in women whose cancer is hormone receptor-positive, "we showed that standard therapy and capecitabine were pretty similar," Muss said. "It would be reasonable fo
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