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Monday 24th October 2016

New data on chemo drugs

2nd January 2008

A new analysis of trial results into chemotherapy for breast cancer has revealed that anthracyclines boost survival in women with certain types of tumour, but not in others.


The study pooled the results of eight randomised trials comparing anthracyclines with non-anthracylines used in chemotherapy.

It found that anthracyclines worked better in women whose tumours tested positive for a protein known as HER2. A higher survival rate was found in this group.

HER2-positive cancers are associated with a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, and are faster growing.

The findings may spare patients with HER2-negative tumours the unnecessary toxicities associated with anthrocyclines, according to lead study author Alessandra Gennari.

Gennari, a medical oncologist at the National Cancer Research Institute in Genoa, Italy, said the new analysis may change treatment programmes for breast cancer.

She said the study provides convincing statistical evidence that the added benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy with anthracyclines is confined to women who have breast tumors in which HER2 is overexpressed or amplified.

Since anthracyclines (which include doxorubicin and epirubicin) were introduced in the 1980s, they have been widely used as supplementary chemotherapy for breast cancer

That may be about to change, said Gennari, as only about 25-30% of all breast cancers are HER2-positive.

Previous analyses have found that anthracyclines boosted overall survival rates, but this study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is the first to narrow down those results according to the kind of tumour.

Anthracyclines, which have long been regarded as the standard therapeutic option in the vast majority of early breast cancer patients, have also been associated with an increased risk of heart damage and even leukaemia in some patients.

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