The chemotherapy drug Taxol® (paclitaxel) does not work on the most common form of breast cancer, research suggests.
The study found that the drug does not significantly help women whose have HER2-negative tumours which are being helped to grow by oestrogen.
But Taxol was found to be beneficial for women with overactive HER2 genes, which are targeted by newer breast cancer drugs such as Herceptin® (trastuzumab).
These women were found to be about 40% less likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer if they received the drug, which is manufactured by New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The differences were revealed after scientists analysed a study from the 1990s and used modern genetic tools that were not then available.
In an editorial accompanying the report in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Anne Moore of Weill Cornell Medical College, USA, said: “The days of ‘one size fits all’ therapy for patients with breast cancer are coming to an end.
“Oncologists have a responsibility to their patients to be aware of this report.”
More than 20,000 women in the USA who have breast cancer are currently treated with the drug each year.
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