A pilot study of intensive cyclophosphamide, epirubicin and fluorouracil in patients with axillary node positive or locally advanced breast cancer
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A multicentre pilot study has been conducted to determine an intensive regimen of cyclophosphamide, epirubicin, and fluorouracil which was tolerable and acceptable to patients with node positive breast cancer. Consecutive patients with operable axillary node positive breast cancer (T1-3, N1-2, M0), 266 patients, or locally advanced breast cancer (T4), 22 patients, were treated with cyclophosphamide post-operatively for 14 days and epirubicin and fluorouracil, both intravenously on days 1 and 8. Each cycle was repeated monthly for 6 months. Dosages were increased according to predetermined guidelines. Outcome measures were admission to hospital for febrile neutropenia and change in cardiac function as assessed by radionuclide angiography. The first 46 patients were treated at the doses of cyclophosphamide = 75 mg/m2, epirubicin = 50 mg/m2, fluorouracil = 375 mg/m2 (level 1), then 42 patients at cyclophosphamide = 75 mg/m2, epirubicin = 50 mg/m2 and fluorouracil = 500 mg/m2 (level 2), 69 patients at cyclophosphamide = 75 mg/m2, epirubicin = 60 mg/m2, and fluorouracil = 500 mg/m2 (level 3), and 42 patients at cyclophosphamide = 75 mg/m2, epirubicin = 70 mg/m2, and fluorouracil = 500 mg/m2 with concurrent antibiotics (level 4). The rates of febrile neutropenia were 8.7% (level 1), 7.1% (level 2), 18.8% (level 3), and 31% (level 4), respectively, P = 0.002. Accrual to level 4 was discontinued according to study guidelines and a further 89 patients were recruited at level 3 dosages with antibiotic prophylaxis (level 3a), resulting in a 5.6% rate of febrile neutropenia. The difference in febrile neutropenia rates between levels 3 and 3a was statistically significant. There were no toxic deaths and 2 cases of heart failure. In conclusion, through a careful dose-finding study in patients with operable or locally advanced breast cancer, an intensive epirubicin-containing adjuvant regimen has been established which is presently being compared with standard CMF (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil) chemotherapy in a randomised trial. In addition, this study suggests that antibiotic prophylaxis reduces the risk of febrile neutropenia in breast cancer patients receiving intensive chemotherapy.
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