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How Effective Is Capecitabine for Breast Cancer?

In studies combining capecitabine for breast cancer with docetaxel, patient outcomes appear improved in contrast with other chemotherapy options.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Capecitabine for breast cancer may potentially extend survival times and reduce the chance of recurrence. This medication was originally developed and approved for use in cases of advanced metastatic breast cancer where the patient didn't respond to an earlier course of chemotherapy. Subsequent clinical trials illustrate that it can be used as a first line treatment in some cases and may be helpful in therapy for early breast cancer to reduce the risks of recurrence. It is intended for use as an auxiliary agent, in association with another chemotherapy medication like docetaxel.

This drug selectively attacks and kills tumor cells. It tends to be less reactive with other medications than some chemotherapy drugs, although it can come with side effects like nausea and diarrhea. Patients take the medication orally, which can be a consideration for patients who find intravenous infusions uncomfortable. The length of time in a course of chemotherapy and the number of courses needed can depend on the cancer.

In studies combining capecitabine for breast cancer with docetaxel, patient outcomes appear improved in contrast with other chemotherapy options. The mean survival rate is longer than with docetaxel alone, illustrating that this medication has clear benefits for breast cancer patients. Finnish researchers in 2009 also noted that it had benefits for patients with early breast cancer, and could be added to chemotherapy regimens to reduce the chance of recurrence.

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Estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors tend to respond more markedly to capecitabine for breast cancer. Patients diagnosed with cancer may undergo some testing to learn more about the specific nature of the tumor, including checks for ER positive cancers. This can allow a doctor to recommend the best course of chemotherapy for the patient's situation, considering which medications are most likely to be effective. In cases where the cancer is not ER positive, other chemotherapy medications may be a better option, and success rates on capecitabine can be lower than in other patient populations.

Breast cancer research is a constantly evolving field. Clinical trials using capecitabine for breast cancer are ongoing, and patients with an interest in contributing to research may enroll to access new treatment protocols with the medication. It can help to discuss all options for cancer treatment with a doctor before committing to a specific treatment plan, as capecitabine for breast cancer may not be the only, or best, choice. Oncologists can also provide referrals for second opinions if patients want to talk to another doctor about the available treatment methods.

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