Weekly epirubicin versus doxorubicin as second line therapy in advanced breast cancer: A randomized clinical trial

G. Gasparini, S. Dal Fior, G. A. Panizzoni, S. Favretto, F. Pozza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Forty-nine patients with advanced breast cancer who had failed from first-line cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil (CMF regimen) chemotherapy, were randomized to treatment with either epirubicin (Epi) or doxorubicin (Dox) at a dose of 20 mg/m2 given intravenously (i.v.) weekly to compare the efficacy and toxicity of these two anthracyclines given in such a schedule. Of 43 evaluable patients 36% (eight of 22) treated with Epi and 38% (eight of 21) treated with Dox achieved a complete plus partial response rate (95% confidence limits 16-56% ± 20% and 18-58% ± 20%, respectively). Patients who obtained a major therapeutic response to previous CMF exhibited a significantly higher response rate with both the drugs: seven of eight (87.5%) compared with one of 13 (8%); p <0.05 for Epi and six of seven (86%) compared with two of 15 (13%); p <0.05 for Dox. The median duration of response was 4.5 months with Epi compared with 7 months with Dox, and the median survival of the two groups of patients were superimposable (12 months with Epi versus 11 months with Dox). The median cumulative dose was 220 mg/m2 (range 160-620) and 240 mg/m2 (range 160-860) for Epi and Dox, respectively. Gastrointestinal and hematological toxicities were moderate for both the drugs, with fewer episodes of nausea and vomiting, stomatitis, and leukopenia following Epi administration. A very low incidence of alopecia was recorded for both the drugs. Regarding cardiac evaluation, no significant differences were evident; however, the only case that developed symptomatic congestive heart failure was in the Dox arm, after a cumulative dose of 820 mg/m2 at 11.5 months. Epi given weekly at low doses preserves efficacy in the treatment of patients with advanced breast cancer, and given at equimolar doses, has a slightly better therapeutic index than the parent compound.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Oncology: Cancer Clinical Trials
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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