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Class of Chemotherapy Drugs Helps Certain Breast Cancer Patients
Date:12/26/2007

widespread use despite these risks, because a previous meta-analysis found they improved overall survival. "As a result, anthracyclines-based regimens have been long regarded as the standard therapeutic option in the vast majority of early breast cancer patients. However, when individual trials are taken into account, the absolute magnitude of this benefit is not consistent across studies," she added.

The new study suggests the drugs work best for those women whose tumors are HER2-positive. Of the 6,564 patients reviewed, 5,354 had HER2 status information available. In those women with tumors that were HER2-positive, the anthracyclines produced a greater reduction in risk of relapse or death than non-anthracycline regimens, the study found.

For women with HER2-negative tumors, however, there was no difference in survival between the chemotherapy regimens.

But, in an accompanying editorial in the journal, Dr. Charles Geyer Jr. and his colleagues from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project in Pittsburgh, said that it may not be as simple as determining who should get anthracyclines based just on HER2 status.

That's because other research has suggested that the overexpression of another gene called topoisomerase II alpha (or topo2) may also play a role in how well anthracyclines work. "The topo2 gene is thought to be the real target of the anthracyclines," said Geyer, director of medical affairs for the NSABB project. And it may or may not be overexpressed along with the HER2 gene, he said.

The new study's conclusions, Geyer added, provide another example of therapies becoming more and more tailored to the specific type of breast cancer.

In another study in the same issue of the journal, researchers reported that women with breast cancer getting chemotherapy and tamoxifen had reduced risk of getting cancer in the healthy breast. Chemotherapy reduced the risk for at least 10 years and tamox
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