When Chemo Fails, This Rx May Help

Capecitabine may increase survival for some women with HER2-negative breast cancer

(RxWiki News) Breast cancer patients and their doctors may now have a new tool in their toolbox.

A new study from Japan found that capecitabine (brand name Xeloda) may increase the rate of disease-free survival in women with HER2-negative breast cancer that was not successfully eliminated by presurgery chemotherapy.

"These [results] show that after two years of follow-up, disease-free survival was significantly improved by the addition of capecitabine to standard therapy," said lead study author Masakazu Toi, MD, PhD, a professor at Kyoto University Hospital and founder of the Japan Breast Cancer Research Group, in a press release. "These data are exciting, because the side effects of the treatment were manageable and the benefit of capecitabine treatment was clear."

Breast cancer patients often undergo chemotherapy before surgery to shrink or eliminate their tumors. But in some patients, residual invasive cancer can still be detected in the tissues removed during surgery. These patients tend to have worse long-term outcomes than those who respond completely to presurgery chemotherapy.

For this study, Dr. Toi and team looked at 910 women with HER2-negative breast cancer. Residual invasive cancer had been found in all of these patients after presurgery chemotherapy. All patients received standard treatment and were randomly assigned to capecitabine or no additional treatment.

After two years, the patients assigned to capecitabine had a 30 percent reduced risk of cancer recurrence compared to the other group. Disease-free survival was 87.2 percent for those assigned to capecitabine and 80.4 percent for those assigned to no capecitabine.

This study was presented Dec. 9 at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The Advanced Clinical Research Organization funded this research. Dr. Toi disclosed personal funding from Chugai Pharmaceutical Company.

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Review Date: 
December 9, 2015