Drug combo helps with repeat cancers in women

NEW YORK Fri May 1, 2009 11:41pm BST

A CT Tech prepares a patient for a CT scan in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Newscom/Jim West/Sipa Press

A CT Tech prepares a patient for a CT scan in this undated handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Newscom/Jim West/Sipa Press

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Combined treatment with the chemotherapy drugs topotecan and docetaxel is effective for women who have had a return of their uterine or ovarian cancer and have already been treated with other drug combos, new research shows.

The study, which is the first to evaluate this drug regimen in such patients, also found that the combination of these two chemotherapy agents was fairly well tolerated, according to the report in the journal Gynecologic Oncology.

Although the study did not feature a comparison group, senior author Dr. Mark H. Einstein, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, told Reuters Health that prior research has shown that treatment responses in these types of patients are usually much worse than seen here and with more severe side effects.

Although recurrent gynecologic cancers tend to be difficult to treat, topotecan and docetaxel are commonly used in such situations, but not always in combination. Earlier studies have looked at docetaxel topotecan; this study was undertaken to test whether weekly dosing of these two drugs might preserve their benefits while decreasing side effects.

The study featured 15 women with recurrent ovarian cancer, 9 with recurrent uterine cancer, and 3 with cancer of the tissue lining the inside of the abdomen. All had been treated previously with chemotherapy regimens, and most had two such prior treatments.

Participants received topotecan and docetaxel on a weekly basis for 3 weeks at a time. They then had a 1-week rest period, before repeating the process. This was done six times or "cycles" unless the patient died or experienced a severe side effect that required the treatment to be stopped.

During a total of 86 treatment cycles, seven severe side effects occurred. However, nearly all of the patients were able to continue treatment.

Twenty-four patients had data that was available for analysis. Of these patients, six had either a complete or full response to treatment and three had no worsening of their cancer. In the remaining 15, progression of the cancer occurred. The usual survival period was around 19 months.

Further studies are warranted to verify and expand on these findings, the authors conclude.

SOURCE: Gynecologic Oncology, April 21st online 2009.

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