Background: Few chemotherapy regimens are suitable for the treatment of elderly patients with advanced breast cancer. With the aim of finding a regimen with a low burden of subjective non-overlapping toxic effects, vinorelbine and capecitabine were chosen to be investigated in a phase I dose-finding study.
Patients and methods: Thirty-six patients with advanced breast cancer were stratified for the presence of bone and non-bone involvement and treated at four dose levels from capecitabine 800 mg/m2 orally days 1-14 and vinorelbine 20 mg/m2 intravenously days 1 and 8, to capecitabine 1250 mg/m2 orally days 1-14 and vinorelbine 25 mg/m2 intravenously days 1 and 8, for a maximum of six cycles. None of the patients had received prior chemotherapy for metastatic/advanced disease. Fifty-three per cent of patients with bone metastases and 67% of patients without bone metastases had visceral disease. The median age was 70 years for the 15 with bone involvement patients and 73 years for the 21 without bone involvement patients.
Results: Twenty-eight patients were fully evaluable for hematological dose-limiting toxicity (DLT), and all patients for other DLTs and for antitumor activity. One DLT with grade 3 venous thrombosis at dose level 2 and two dose-limiting neutropenia events at level 3 occurred in patients without bone involvement. Two dose-limiting neutropenia events were observed at dose level 2 for patients with bone involvement. Thus, the recommended dose was defined at level 1 (capecitabine 1000 mg/m2 days 1-14 and vinorelbine 20 mg/m2 days 1 and 8) for patients with bone involvement. For patients without bone involvement, the recommended dose was at level 2 (capecitabine 1250 mg/m2 days 1-14 and vinorelbine 20 mg/m2 days 1 and 8). For patients without bone involvement the overall response rate was 48% and the time to progression (TTP) was 4.5 months [95% confidence interval (CI) 3.3-6.9]. For patients with bone involvement the overall response rate was 53% and TTP was 5.3 months (95% CI 2.7-7.8).
Conclusions: This regimen of capecitabine and vinorelbine is well tolerated and effective in elderly patients with metastatic breast cancer. Toxicity was mainly hematological and was observed at a lower dose in patients with bone involvement. A phase II study with the two different dose levels for elderly patients with and without bone involvement is currently being conducted.