24-Week Chemo Effective for Early Breast Cancer

Women detected with early breast cancer and lymph node involvement should be treated with a six-month chemotherapy regimen, a new study has suggested. Compared with two shorter regimens, the therapy, the study finds out, improves overall and disease-free survival among this category of patients.

Published in the June 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the study was conducted by Sandra M. Swain, MD, at the Washington Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center, and colleagues. It is based on the analysis of three chemotherapy regimens among 5,351 women with lymph-node positive early-stage breast cancer.

The aforesaid 24-week (or six months) regimen involves administration of four cycles of doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide over the first 12 weeks, followed by four cycles of docetaxel alone during the second 12 weeks. The other two therapies are: a 12-week, four-cycle regimen of doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and docetaxel; a 12-week, four-cycle regimen of doxorubicin and docetaxel.

Apart from the high survival rate, the 24-week sequential chemotherapy regimen resulted in gains in disease-free survival when compared to the other two chemotherapy regimens.

"This is an intriguing study that shows that the longer chemotherapy regimen did better than the shorter regimens in women with lymph-node-positive early breast cancer," says Marisa Weiss, MD, the president and founder of the advocacy group Breastcancer. org.