University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center
Last Modified: May 18, 1998
For the first time, researchers have found that Paclitaxel (Taxol), the widely-used chemotherapy agent originally developed from compounds found in the bark of the yew tree, increases a woman's chance of survival when used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs after surgery. Previously, no randomized trial had found an adjuvant chemotherapy more active than the current standard -- doxorubicin plus cyclophosphamide.
This large randomized study of 3,170 women with node-positive breast cancer compared the standard adjuvant chemotherapy with and without Paclitaxel. After only two years of treatment, the women receiving Paclitaxel had a small but significant survival benefit -- a four percent rise in disease-free survival (to 90%) and a two percent increase in overall survival (to 97%) -- compared to the group without Paclitaxel. These results were observed fairly early a long-term study that requires long-term analysis to determine if this advantage will hold up over time.