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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phase II study of gemcitabine, doxorubicin and paclitaxel (GAT) as first-line chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer: a translational research experience

Alessandro Passardi1*, Ilaria Massa2, Wainer Zoli1, Lorenzo Gianni3, Carlo Milandri1, Federica Zumaglini2, Oriana Nanni2, Roberta Maltoni1, Giovanni Luca Frassineti1 and Dino Amadori4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Oncology, Morgagni-Pierantoni Hospital, Forlì, Italy

2 Istituto Oncologico Romagnolo, Forlì, Italy

3 Department of Oncology, Infermi Hospital, Rimini, Italy

4 Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Meldola, Italy

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-76

Published: 21 March 2006

Abstract

Background

Patients with metastatic breast cancer are frequently treated with anthracyclines and taxanes, which are among the most active agents in this disease. Gemcitabine is an interesting candidate for a three-drug combination because of its different mechanism of action and non-overlapping toxicity with respect to the other two drugs. We aimed to evaluate the activity and toxicity of the GAT (gemcitabine, doxorubicin and paclitaxel) regimen, derived from experimental preclinical studies, as first-line chemotherapy in patients with stage IIIB-IV breast cancer.

Methods

Patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer and at least one bidimensionally measurable lesion were included in the present study. Adequate bone marrow reserve, normal cardiac, hepatic and renal function, and an ECOG performance status of 0 to 2 were required. Only prior adjuvant non anthracycline-based chemotherapy was permitted. Treatment consisted of doxorubicin 50 mg/m2 on day 1, paclitaxel 160 mg/m2 on day 2 and gemcitabine 800 mg/m2 on day 6, repeated every 21–28 days.

Results

Thirty-three consecutive breast cancer patients were enrolled onto the trial (7 stage IIIB and 26 stage IV). All patients were evaluable for toxicity and 29 were assessable for response. A total of 169 cycles were administered, with a median of 6 cycles per patient (range 1–8 cycles). Complete and partial responses were observed in 6.9% and 48.3% of patients, respectively, for an overall response rate of 55.2%. A response was reported in all metastatic sites, with a median duration of 16.4 months. Median time to progression and overall survival were 10.2 and 36.4 months, respectively. The most important toxicity was hematological, with grade III-IV neutropenia observed in 69% of patients, sometimes requiring the use of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (27%). Non hematological toxicity was rare and mild. One patient died from sepsis during the first treatment cycle before the administration of gemcitabine.

Conclusion

The strong synergism among the three drugs found in the preclinical setting was confirmed in terms of both clinical activity and hematological toxicity. Our results seem to indicate that the GAT regimen is effective in anthracycline-naïve metastatic breast cancer and provides a feasible chemotherapeutic option in this clinical setting.