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Longer Drug Regimen Still Best Against Breast Cancer
Date:6/2/2010

Giving meds sequentially, not concurrently, gives survival edge for those with early stage disease, study finds

WEDNESDAY, June 2 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with early stage breast cancer, taking chemotherapy drugs sequentially over six months helps improve their survival compared to taking them at the same time over a shorter three-month span, a new study found.

The new findings will probably come as a relief to doctors, most of whom already follow the sequential protocol, said Dr. Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy, a breast oncologist with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center--Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus.

But the "most exciting and surprising finding," said study lead author Dr. Sandra M. Swain, was that younger women who went into early menopause because of their chemotherapy -- in other words, those who stopped having periods -- were more likely to live longer.

"That's something that's not been reported," added Swain, who is medical director of the Washington Cancer Institute, Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

And this was true irrespective of whether the women's cancers were estrogen-receptor positive (meaning estrogen furthers their growth) or not.

In the study, reported in the June 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors tracked outcomes for almost 5,400 women with early stage breast cancer that had spread to at least one lymph node.

The patients were randomly divided into one of three treatment groups: the sequential group, which involved three drugs (doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide and docetaxel) taken in sequence over six months; or one of two "concurrent" groups, where women received either two or three of these medications concurrently for three months.

After eight years of follow-up, 83 percent of patients in the sequential group were still alive compare
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