Dose density in adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer

Cancer Invest. 2004;22(4):555-68. doi: 10.1081/cnv-200027134.


Background: Dose-dense chemotherapy increases the dose intensity of the regimen by delivering standard-dose chemotherapy with shorter intervals between the cycles. This article discusses the rationale for dose-dense therapy and reviews the results with dose-dense adjuvant regimens in recent clinical trials in breast cancer.

Methods: The papers for this review covered evidence of a dose-response relation in cancer chemotherapy; the rationale for dose-intense (and specifically dose-dense) therapy; and clinical experience with dose-dense regimens in adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer, with particular attention to outcomes and toxicity.

Results: Evidence supports maintaining the dose intensity of adjuvant chemotherapy within the conventional dose range. Disease-free and overall survival with combination cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and fluorouracil are significantly improved when patients receive within 85% of the planned dose. Moderate and high dose cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and fluorouracil within the standard range results in greater disease-free and overall survival than the low dose regimen. The sequential addition of paclitaxel after concurrent doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide also significantly improves survival. Disease-free and overall survival with dose-dense sequential or concurrent doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and paclitaxel with filgrastim (rhG-CSF; NEUPOGEN) support are significantly greater than with conventional schedules (q21d).

Conclusions: The delivered dose intensity of adjuvant chemotherapy within the standard dose range is an important predictor of the clinical outcome. Prospective trials of high-dose chemotherapy have shown no improvement over standard regimens, and toxicity was greater. Dose-dense adjuvant chemotherapy improves the clinical outcomes with doxorubicin-containing regimens. Filgrastim support enables the delivery of dose-dense chemotherapy and reduces the risk of neutropenia and its complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Survival Analysis