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According to updated results recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the chemotherapy agent Taxotere® (docetaxel) improves survival compared to Taxol® (paclitaxel) in recurrent, metastatic breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer refers to cancer that has spread from the breast to distant sites in the body. Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is most often aimed at improving the duration of survival and/or quality of life of a patient; it is rarely aimed at providing a cure. However, some women with metastatic breast cancer are able to achieve long-term survival. Chemotherapy remains the cornerstone of treatment for metastatic breast cancer, and studies continue to compare different chemotherapy agents to establish optimal long-term outcomes for this group of patients.

Taxotere is a relatively new chemotherapy agent compared to Taxol, and is currently approved as a single agent for advanced breast cancer in patients who have received prior chemotherapy. It is also approved for use in combination with the chemotherapy agents doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide. Updated results from a recent large trial directly comparing Taxotere to Taxol in breast cancer have recently been published. This trial included 449 women with metastatic breast cancer who had received treatment with prior anthracyclines (chemotherapy including doxorubicin or epirubicin). Patients were treated with either single-agent Taxotere or single-agent Taxol and were directly compared. Overall survival time and the period before cancer progressed were both extended in the group treated with Taxotere compared to those treated with Taxol. The average duration of overall survival was 15.4 months for patients treated with Taxotere, compared with 12.7 months for those treated with Taxol. Cancer progressed in 5.7 months for women treated with Taxotere, compared to only 3.6 months for those treated with Taxol. Anti-cancer responses were also improved in the group treated with Taxotere (32% versus 25%). Quality of life scores were similar between the two groups of patients; however, side effects associated with treatment occurred at a greater rate in the group treated with Taxotere.

The researchers concluded that treatment with single-agent Taxotere improves survival compared with Taxol in women with metastatic breast cancer who have received prior chemotherapy with anthracyclines. Due to the differences in side effects, women with metastatic breast cancer may wish to discuss their individual risks and benefits of treatment with Taxotere over Taxol.

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Reference: Jones SE, Overmoyer EB, Budd GT, et al. Randomized phase III study of docetaxel compared with paclitaxel in metastatic breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2005;23:5542-5551.

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