Cancer treatment reviews vol:30 issue:4 pages:333-42
Breast cancer in elderly patients (70+) is a major health problem that will only increase in the future. Besides adequate local treatment and hormone therapy, there can be an indication for chemotherapy in this patient group. Due to concerns of excessive toxicity, there is often a defeatist attitude towards chemotherapy in elderly patients. As taxanes are considered to be the most effective drugs in breast cancer, and as the weekly regimens seem at least as effective as the 3-weekly regimens but with less toxicity, these weekly regimens are very attractive for elderly breast cancer patients. Many different doses have been used for the weekly taxane regimens in phase II trials. Although large comparative studies are lacking, pharmacological studies are suggestive for a decreased clearance of both paclitaxel and docetaxel in elderly patients compared to non-elderly patients. It seems therefore safe to use the lower range of proposed doses of the weekly regimens until further data provide stronger evidence for optimal dosing in elderly patients. A dose of paclitaxel 80 mg/m(2)/week and docetaxel 36 mg/m(2)/week seems tolerable for elderly patients without excessive toxicity and with impressive response rates. The dose limiting toxicity for 3-weekly taxanes, severe neutropaenia, is generally very limited in weekly regimens, also in the elderly or frail patients. However, neuropathy (paclitaxel) or fatigue and fluid retention (docetaxel) can be troublesome, and eventually require dose modifications. In general however, weekly taxanes are a reasonable option for older patients with metastatic breast cancer.