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Ann Oncol. 2005 Aug;16(8):1289-96. Epub 2005 May 12.

Lower dose capecitabine has a more favorable therapeutic index in metastatic breast cancer: retrospective analysis of patients treated at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and a review of capecitabine toxicity in the literature.

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  • 1Department of Breast Medical Oncology and Division of Pharmacy, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Capecitabine is active against anthracycline- and taxane-pretreated metastatic breast cancer. Post-marketing use of capecitabine at the FDA-approved dose (2500 mg/m2/day) leads to unacceptable toxicity in many patients. Dose reductions anecdotally improve tolerability without compromising efficacy. This retrospective analysis was designed to verify these anecdotal reports.


We retrospectively reviewed the records of 141 consecutive patients with metastatic breast cancer identified from pharmacy records as receiving capecitabine outside of a clinical trial between May 1998 and February 1999. Responses were defined as clinical improvement (ID), stabilization of disease (SD) for 6 weeks or longer, or progression (PD). Patients were grouped according to the starting dose level of capecitabine: A=2500+/-5% (dose range 2385-2560) mg/m2/day; B=2250+/-5% (range 2130-2350) mg/m2/day; C < or = 2000+5% (range 1000-2100) mg/m2/day. We also reviewed the safety profile of capecitabine at these doses and performed a safety review of capecitabine in phase II and III metastatic breast and colorectal cancer trials.


Clinical data were available for 113 patients (105 for response, 106 for toxicity). The median age was 52.5 years and the mean number of prior metastatic chemotherapy regimens was 2 (range 0-7). The mean capecitabine starting dose was 2220 mg/m2/day and the median number of cycles administered was 4 (range 1-19). The mean tolerated dose was 2040 mg/m2/day (range 960-2670). Grade 3/4 toxic effects at dose levels A, B and C, respectively, included palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia (33%, 63%, 20%), diarrhea (13%, 12%, 3%), stomatitis (8%, 0%, 3%), and nausea/vomiting (4%, 6%, 5%). Forty per cent of all patients required capecitabine dose reductions; fewer patients treated with 2000 mg/m2/day required dose modification (28%). Five per cent of the patients required discontinuation of capecitabine owing to toxicity. Patients started at the lowest doses of capecitabine did not have poorer response rates or shorter time to progression.


This retrospective analysis supports a starting dose of 2000 mg/m2/day because of its superior therapeutic index; however, patients may still have toxic effects and individualization of dosing is necessary. A phase III, multicenter, randomized study to establish the safety and efficacy of different doses of capecitabine is urgently needed.

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