No link found between pneumonitis in breast cancer patients and taxane-based chemotherapies

HOUSTON - Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have shown that breast cancer patients treated with taxane-based chemotherapies and radiation are not at increased risk of developing a dangerous lung condition involving the inflammation of lung tissue, pneumonitis, according to a study published in the Nov. 17 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

These results are vitally important, says Thomas Buchholz, M.D., the study's corresponding author, because both radiation and taxanes-based chemotherapies, including Taxotere and Taxol, have proven effective in the treatment and improved survival of selected patients with breast cancer.

In addition, these results disprove a previous smaller study that had suggested the dangerous correlation between taxanes, radiation treatment and lung injury.

"We had the unique opportunity to investigate and clearly focus on the question of whether or not taxanes increase radiation induced lung complications," says Buchholz, professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at M. D. Anderson. "Both taxanes and radiation therapy are critically important in the treatment of patients whose disease has spread beyond the breast.

"The first study showed higher rates of toxicity and received a great deal of attention within the medical community. We were concerned that oncologists might have some reluctance in giving these appropriate treatments. With this study, we wanted to try and determine if we could alleviate the fears of both the physicians administering, and the patients receiving these potentially life-saving treatments."

The research, led by Tse-Kuan Yu, M.D., Ph.D., a resident in radiation oncology at M. D. Anderson and the study's principal investigator, analyzed 189 breast cancer patients who had been enrolled in a prospective Phase III randomized trial. The patients had received either four cycles of paclitaxel (Taxol) followed by

Contact: Laura Sussman
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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