The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Chemotherapy combinations for early breast cancer

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Many chemotherapy drug combinations can be used to treat early breast cancer.

Chemotherapy with an anthracycline

Anthracycline chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer are:

  • Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • Epirubicin (Pharmorubicin)

The Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group combined the results of 17 randomized clinical trials that compared chemotherapy combinations with and without an anthracycline drug.

They found drug combinations containing an anthracycline improved overall survival (about 3 percent at 5 years and 4 percent at 10 years) [1].

Chemotherapy with an anthracycline plus a taxane

Taxane chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer are:

  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)

Studies have shown adding a taxane drug to chemotherapy with an anthracycline increases 5-year overall survival [2-3].

Learn more about chemotherapy drugs.

Learn more about treatment for HER2-positive early breast cancers.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

Study selection criteria: Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group pooled analysis and other pooled and meta-analyses.

Chemotherapy with an Anthracycline

 

10-Year Overall Survival

Study

Study Population

Percent Surviving

Absolute Improvement in Survival with Chemotherapy Containing Anthracycline

Chemotherapy with an
Anthracycline

CMF Chemotherapy (No Anthracycline)

Pooled analyses

 

Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group [1]*

Overall

77%

73%

4%

 

Women younger than 45

74%

71%

3%

 

Women 45-54

78%

77%

1%

 

Women 55-69

81%

79%

2%

 

Women 70 or older

83%

78%

5%

Chemotherapy with an Anthracycline Plus a Taxane

 

5-Year Overall Survival

Study

Percent Surviving

Absolute Improvement in Survival with Chemotherapy Containing a Taxane

Chemotherapy with an Anthracycline Plus a Taxane

Chemotherapy with an
Anthracycline (No Taxane)

Pooled and meta-analyses

Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group [1]†

84%

82%

2%‡

De Laurentiis et al. [2]§

77%

74%

3%

* Combined individual data from 18,000 women in 20 randomized clinical trials

† Combined individual data from 44,000 women in 33 randomized clinical trials

‡ Absolute improvement in survival after 8 years was 3 percent

§ Combined results from 13 randomized clinical trials that together included 22,903 women

References

1. Peto R, Davies C, Godwin J, et al. for the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG). Comparisons between different polychemotherapy regimens for early breast cancer: meta-analyses of long-term outcome among 100,000 women in 123 randomised trials. Lancet. 379(9814):432-44, 2012.

2. De Laurentiis M, Cancello G, D’Agostino D, et al. Taxane-based combinations as adjuvant chemotherapy of early breast cancer: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. J Clin Oncol. 26(1):44-53, 2008.

3. Ferguson T, Wilcken N, Vagg R, Ghersi D, Nowak AK. Taxanes for adjuvant treatment of early breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (4):CD004421, 2007.

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