Current problems in the first-line treatment of metastatic breast cancer: focus on the role of docetaxel

Filippo Montemurro



Metastatic breast cancer is a very heterogeneous disease, both from a clinical and a biological point of view. Despite being still incurable, the expanding therapeutic repertoire has determined a progressive increase in median survival. We describe the clinical course of a 67-year-old woman with a locally advanced, hormone-receptor positive breast cancer with synchronous liver metastases. Single-agent docetaxel at the dose of 100 mg/m2 for 8 cycles determined a pathological complete remission in the breast and a near complete remission of liver metastases. After more than 4 years from diagnosis, the patient is alive and without signs of tumour progression. Based on this clinical case, we discuss management issues like the choice of the initial treatment, the use of monochemotherapy vs polychemotherapy, the worth of surgery of the primary tumour in patients with stage IV disease, and the issue of maintenance endocrine therapy. Furthermore, we reviewed the pivotal role of docetaxel in the management of advanced breast cancer. Whether monochemotherapy or polychemotherapy is felt to be an adequate choice in the clinical practice, docetaxel qualifies as one of the most active and manageable agents. Single agent activity ranging from 20-48% in terms of response rate has been reported in several clinical trials in patients treated in various clinical settings. Docetaxel-based combinations with other cytotoxic agents have become established in the first line treatment both in patients with anthracycline-resistant and anthracycline-sensitive metastatic breast cancer. Finally, docetaxel has been shown to be an optimal companion drug for biologically targeted agents like trastuzumab or bevacizumab, resulting in further treatment options.


Metastatic breast cancer; Docetaxel; Polychemotherapy; Monochemotherapy

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