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According to a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the chemotherapy combination referred to as TAC (Taxotere®, Adriamycin®, and Cytoxan®) improves cancer-free and overall survival compared to treatment with FAC (5-Fluorouracil, Adriamycin®, and Cytoxan®) in early breast cancer.

Early breast cancer refers to cancer that has not spread to distant sites in the body. However, in early breast cancer, there may be cancer spread to lymph nodes under the arm (axillary), referred to as node-positive breast cancer. Standard treatment for node-positive breast cancer typically includes the surgical removal of the cancer, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The use of chemotherapy following surgery, referred to as adjuvant chemotherapy, is utilized to kill any cancer cells that may be remaining in the body following surgery. The optimal adjuvant chemotherapy regimen in node-positive breast cancer patients continues to be evaluated. FAC is a commonly used adjuvant chemotherapy regimen in breast cancer; however, the chemotherapy agent Taxotere has demonstrated promising results in the treatment of this disease.

Researchers affiliated with the Breast Cancer International Research Group 001 Investigators conducted a clinical trial to directly compare the chemotherapy regimens TAC to FAC as adjuvant therapy in women with node-positive breast cancer. This trial included 1,491 women who were treated with surgery followed by either TAC or FAC. At 5 years, cancer-free survival was 75% among patients treated with TAC, compared with 68% among patients treated with FAC. Overall survival at 5 years was 87% for those treated with TAC, compared with 81% for those treated with FAC. Low levels of white blood cells accompanied by fever (febrile neutropenia) were significantly higher in the group of patients treated with TAC versus those treated with FAC (24.7% and 2.5%, respectively); however, infection rates remained low in both groups of patients. Quality of life was reported as being diminished during treatment in patients treated with TAC, however, this was returned to normal following completion of therapy.

The researchers concluded that the chemotherapy regimen TAC improves cancer-free and overall survival compared to FAC as adjuvant therapy in node-positive breast cancer. Although quality of life was diminished during treatment with TAC, it returned to normal following completion of treatment. Patients diagnosed with early breast cancer who are to undergo treatment with chemotherapy may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of treatment with TAC.

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Reference: Martin M, Pienkowski T, Mackey J, et al. Adjuvant docetaxel for node-positive breast cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2005;352:2302-2313.

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