Breast cancer chemotherapy

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File:Chemotherapy with acral cooling.jpg
A woman being treated with docetaxel chemotherapy for breast cancer. Cold mittens and wine coolers are placed on her hands and feet to prevent deleterious effects on the nails. Similar strategies can be used to prevent hair loss.

Breast cancer chemotherapy refers to the use of cytotoxic drugs (chemotherapy) in the treatment of breast cancer.



There are three major types of chemotherapy.

  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy
    • given before surgery to shrink the size of a tumor
  • Adjuvant chemotherapy
    • given after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • Palliative chemotherapy
    • used to control (but not cure) the cancer in settings in which the cancer has spread beyond the breast and localized lymph nodes


Multiple chemotherapeutic agents may be used in combination to treat patients with breast cancer.[1] Determining the appropriate regimen to use depends on many factors; such as, the character of the tumor, lymph node status, and the age and health of the patient. In general, chemotherapy has increasing side effects as the patient's age passes 65.

The following is a list of commonly used adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer:

Since chemotherapy affects the production of white blood cells, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) is sometimes administered along with chemotherapy. This has been shown to reduce, though not completely prevent, the rate of infection and low white cell count. Most adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy regimens do not routinely require growth factor support except for those associated with a high incidence of bone marrow suppression and infection. These may include chemotherapy given in the dose dense fashion i.e. 2-weekly instead of 3-weekly or TAC chemotherapy (see above).


New discovery: By conducting a meta-analysis of four large breast cancer trials including nearly 3,000 patients, the researchers have discovered that an abnormality on chromosome 17, called CEP17, is associated with a worse outcome for patients, but also that its presence is a highly significant indicator that the tumour will respond to anthracyclines.

CEP17 is detected by a common and straightforward test (fluorescent in situ hybridisation or FISH), which is carried out routinely in breast cancer patients; it is used to test for the HER2 gene to see whether the women might benefit from the drug Herceptin. Prof Bartlett said that assessment for CEP17 could be easily carried out in the same FISH analysis as for HER2. [1]

See also


  1. von Minckwitz, G (March 2007). [Expression error: Missing operand for > "Docetaxel/anthracycline combinations for breast cancer treatment"]. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 8 (4): 485–495. doi:10.1517/14656566.8.4.485. PMID 17309343. 
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