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Drug a New Weapon Against One Form of Breast Cancer
Date:10/10/2007

Adding paclitaxel to standard chemo targets HER2-positive tumors

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- When added to a standard chemotherapy, the drug paclitaxel (Taxol) cuts the recurrence of breast cancer by 41 percent in women with a particular form of tumor, a new study finds.

Those tumors are called "HER2-positive" because their cells produce an excess of the protein human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2).

In recent years, cancer specialists have found that breast tumors with different characteristics respond differently to various regimens. The new study adds another piece to that puzzle, experts say.

"Over the last 10 years, we have come to realize that breast cancer isn't one disease but a family of diseases," explained study co-author Dr. Eric Winer, director of the breast oncology center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. "In this study, what we saw is very different benefits for paclitaxel in different subgroups of women," he said.

"This adds to a growing body of literature" about which chemotherapy regimens benefit which types of tumors, added the study's lead author, Dr. Daniel F. Hayes, clinical director of the breast oncology program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

"We can use the biology of the cancer to select the [appropriate] chemotherapy," he said.

The findings are published in the Oct. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine

The researchers randomly selected 1,500 women from 3,121 patients with lymph node-positive breast cancer, meaning it had spread to nearby lymph nodes; all were part of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B study, a national clinical research effort sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The women had been randomly assigned to get the standard anti-cancer drugs doxorubicin plus cycl
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