US research has found that women treated with Roche AG’s drug Xeloda for breast cancer were twice as likely to relapse and die than women who received standard chemotherapy.
The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that the drug did not help patients with early-stage breast cancer, but is effective against breast cancer that has spread.
Xeloda, also known as capecitabine, is taken as a pill and is thought to be more convenient and less toxic than chemotherapy.
However, trials, which aimed to show that it was “just as good”, discovered that it is not nearly as effective as standard chemotherapy.
Dr Hyman Muss of the University of Vermont and colleagues wrote: “Patients who were randomly assigned to capecitabine were twice as likely to have a relapse and almost twice as likely to die as patients who were randomly assigned to standard chemotherapy.
“The study was designed to show it was just as good” as standard treatment for early-stage breast cancer, but it didn’t work out.”
The study also found that hormone-receptor-negative tumours, which cannot be treated with pills such as tamoxifen, responded particularly poorly to Xeloda.
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New England Journal of Medicine