It looks like taxanes are beneficial, said Kay Dickersin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Clinical Trials at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dickersin, who was not involved with the review, said that the studies analyzed appeared to be of good quality, which strengthens the result.
For physicians, the study also demonstrates that there are numerous effective regimens and that there is no clear message that taxanes must be given together with anthracyclines, or as an extra drug, or for a longer number of cycles. This allows physicians to tailor the regimen to the individual patient in terms of side effects, duration and convenience, Nowak said.
She added that there was no increase in secondary leukemia associated with these drugs, at least during the patient follow-up periods so far, which had been a concern.
The review did confirm that certain side effects were higher among those treated with taxanes, including neurotoxicity (in this case, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in hands and feet due to damage to nerves) and febrile neutropenia an infection that results from low white blood cell counts, which can be fatal. However it was encouraging to see no additional treatment-related deaths in the taxane group, Nowak said.
There were also lower rates of nausea among those treated with taxanes and the review found that some regimens of these drugs were less likely to be harmful to the heart.
The studies showed that replacing another kind of drug called an anthracycline with a taxane could reduce the risk of heart damage. This will also help physicians to choose a safer regimen in women who may be at higher risk of this complication, Nowak said.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, affecting more than 1 million worldwide each year and killing some 400,000 annually. One in eight American women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis over
|Contact: Lisa Esposito|
Center for the Advancement of Health