The European Journal of Cancer recently reported data suggesting that the chemotherapy agent, pemetrexed disodium, appears to produce significant anti-cancer responses in patients with recurrent breast cancer previously treated with anthracycline or taxane-based chemotherapy.

Breast cancer is a common malignancy among women in the United States with almost 200,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Breast cancer develops from cells in the breast and is defined according to various stages of progression. Recurrent breast cancer is cancer that has returned following previous treatment. The primary chemotherapy agents used to treat breast cancer as initial therapy are anthracycline and taxane-based. Because these agents are effective against most breast cancers, they are widely used. However, cancer can become resistant to chemotherapy agents over time, rendering them ineffectual. This leaves few treatment options for patients with recurrent breast cancer, necessitating development of unique therapeutic options that may prolong survival and/or reduce symptoms.

A recently clinical study conducted in Britain investigated the efficacy and safety of pemetrexed disodium against recurrent and/or metastatic breast cancer. Thirty-eight patients participated in the clinical trial, 33 having previously received anthracycline or taxane-based chemotherapy. Pemetrexed disodium was administered intravenously (through a vein) at three week intervals.

The overall anti-cancer response to treatment was 28%, with one patient experiencing a complete remission (disappearance of cancer) and nine achieving partial remission. Importantly, five of the ten patients responding to treatment had previously undergone anthracycline or taxane-based chemotherapy. The average duration of response was eight months and the average duration of survival was over one year (13 months) post treatment. Side effects included neutropenia (abnormally low number of specific white blood cells), mucositis (inflammation of the mucosal membranes), and mild to moderate vomiting, nausea and skin rashes.

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Results of this British study appear to indicate that pemetrexed disodium may represent an effective treatment option for breast cancer resistant to anthracycline or taxane-based chemotherapy. Individuals with recurrent cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding the risks and benefits of pemetrexed disodium or about participating in a clinical trial. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include comprehensive, easy-to-use listing services provided by the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.eCancerTrials.com. eCancerTrials.com also provides personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients. (European Journal of Cancer, Vol 37, Issue 11, pp 1366-1371, 2001)

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