Dose-dense sequential chemotherapy with epirubicin and paclitaxel versus the combination, as first-line chemotherapy, in advanced breast cancer: a randomized study conducted by the Hellenic Cooperative Oncology Group

G Fountzilas, C Papadimitriou, U Dafni, D Bafaloukos, D Skarlos, L A Moulopoulos, E Razis, H P Kalofonos, G Aravantinos, E Briassoulis, P Papakostas, K Abela, E Gogas, P Kosmidis, N Pavlidis, M A Dimopoulos
Journal of Clinical Oncology 2001 April 15, 19 (8): 2232-9

PURPOSE: To compare the efficacy of two different schedules of epirubicin and paclitaxel, as first-line chemotherapy, in patients with advanced breast cancer (ABC).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: From October 1997 until May 1999, 183 eligible patients with ABC entered the study. Chemotherapy in group A (93 patients) consisted of four cycles of epirubicin at a dose of 110 mg/m(2) followed by four cycles of paclitaxel at a dose of 225 mg/m(2) in a 3-hour infusion. All cycles were repeated every 2 weeks with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor support. The therapeutic regimen in group B (90 patients) consisted of epirubicin (80 mg/m(2)) immediately followed by paclitaxel (175 mg/m(2) in a 3-hour infusion) every 3 weeks for six cycles.

RESULTS: In total, 79 patients (85%) in group A and 72 patients (80%) in group B completed treatment. The median relative dose-intensity of epirubicin was 0.96 in both groups, and that of paclitaxel was 0.96 and 0.97 in groups A and B, respectively. The complete response rate was higher in group A (21.5% v 9% P =.02). Nevertheless, there was no significant difference in the overall response rate between the two groups (55% v 42%, P =.10). Severe neutropenia was more frequently observed with concurrent treatment. After a median follow-up of 16.5 months, median time to progression was 10 months in group A and 8.5 months in group B (P =.27), and median survival was 21.5 and 20 months, respectively (P =.17).

CONCLUSION: The present study failed to demonstrate a significant difference in overall response rate between dose-dense sequential administration of epirubicin and paclitaxel compared with the combination of the two drugs given on the same day, even though the sequential treatment resulted in a significantly higher complete response rate.

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