New Research Questions Taxol's Efficacy for Common Breast Cancer

Jeannette Vagnozzi Health Guide
  • After enduring four grueling rounds of Taxol during my chemotherapy treatments, imagine my disappointment upon learning that it may have all been for naught.


    Current research lead by Dr. Daniel Hayes of the University of Michigan indicates that Taxol may not be effective treatment for early stage, hormone sensitive breast cancer. Using modern genetic tools, the study re-examined early Taxol studies and reached quite different conclusions. There is good news; however, as Taxol was found to be effective in treating HER-2 positive advanced breast cancer.


    In the 1990's, after extensive research and clinical trials, Taxol became a new standard in breast cancer chemotherapy, frequently given in conjunction with Adriamicyn and Cytoxan. A mitotic inhibitor, Taxol works by inhibiting mitosis or the cell's ability to divide, which is how cells grow. Although it affects both healthy cells as well as cancer cells, the rapidly dividing cancer cells are more susceptible to the drug's effect.

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    Dr. Hayes admits that more research is needed to verify these findings before changes in chemotherapy regimens are made. However, if confirmed, the women who will be diagnosed with early stage hormone sensitive breast cancer may be able to avoid Taxol, a drug known for extensive side effects including bone pain and nerve damage causing tingling/numbness in the feet and hands that may last long after the treatment has ended.


    For women just embarking on their treatment plans or currently undergoing treatment, it is important to discuss any questions regarding drug choices with their oncologists. For those of us whose chemotherapy is long over, there is likely not much that can be done at this point, but for peace of mind it may be worth a discussion at the next oncology check up.


    Although it may be a bit unsettling knowing that such a harsh drug was taken with potentially minimal benefit, it is comforting to understand the advances in cancer treatment research. With each new discovery we are closing in on genetically engineered treatment that will be individually designed for each cancer and cancer patient. Although it seems a bit futuristic, it is actually technology that is already being utilized in many areas of treatment. With each step, each advancement we make, we improve the lives of so many women. How far can we be from a cure?


    Looking for more on Taxol? 


    Read PJ Hamel's reaction to the new Taxol study 


    Read Gregory Pawelski's discussion of implications for "personalized medicine" 

Published On: October 15, 2007