Taxanes for the adjuvant treatment of early breast cancer: systematic review and economic evaluation

Health Technol Assess. 2007 Oct;11(40):1-144. doi: 10.3310/hta11400.


Objectives: To estimate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of docetaxel and paclitaxel compared with non-taxane, anthracycline-containing chemotherapy regimens, for the adjuvant treatment of women with early-stage breast cancer.

Data sources: Major electronic databases were searched between October 2005 and February 2006.

Review methods: A systematic review of the literature on adjuvant taxane versus anthracycline non-taxane chemotherapy for women with early breast cancer was undertaken. A mathematical model was developed to synthesise the available data on costs, disease-free survival and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of patients receiving taxane-containing chemotherapy versus non-taxane-containing chemotherapy.

Results: Eight of the 11 selected trials (six docetaxel and five paclitaxel) reported a significant improvement in disease-free survival (DFS) or time to recurrence (TTR) for taxanes over comparator regimens. Docetaxel was associated with more adverse events than paclitaxel, most notably febrile neutropenia. Taxanes produced cardiotoxicity, although this was not reported to be greater than for anthracycline comparator arms in all trials. Treatment-related deaths were uncommon. Where reported, all chemotherapy regimens caused HRQoL to deteriorate during treatment. Following treatment, there were no clinically significant differences between taxane and comparator treatment groups. There were few data available comparing licensed regimens of taxanes with chemotherapy regimens commonly used in the UK. The three trials selected as the basis for the economic analysis were those that used the taxanes in accordance with current UK marketing authorisation and had also reported in full. The estimated incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for docetaxel compared to FAC6, based on the BCIRG 001 study, is 12,000 pounds (7000-39,000 pounds) and for paclitaxel compared with Adriamycin/cyclophosphamide, based on the NSABP B28 and CALGB 9344 studies, is 43,000 pounds (16,000 pounds-dominated) and 39,000 pounds (12,000 pounds-dominated), respectively. However, the comparators used in these trials restrict the generalisability of the results, as they do not conform to current standard care in the UK, typically FEC6 and E4-CMF4. An exploratory indirect comparison shows that the benefits of taxane containing regimens compared to regimens in current use in the UK is subject to large uncertainty due to the lack of direct trial comparisons between these interventions. Assumptions regarding the benefits in the taxane arm after the trial follow-up period and the annual rate of recurrence in this period have the most significant influence on the ICER.

Conclusions: There is a large degree of heterogeneity in the evidence base for the effectiveness of taxane- compared with non-taxane-containing regimens in terms of the interventions, comparators and populations. Eight of the 11 trials providing effectiveness data reported a significant improvement in DFS or TTR for taxanes over comparator regimens. The remaining three trials found no significant differences between the groups in DFS/TTR. The cost-effectiveness results suggest that the cost per quality-adjusted life-year for taxane- compared with non-taxane-containing chemotherapy varies between 12,000 pounds and 43,000 pounds, depending on the taxane under consideration and the specific trial used as the basis of the analysis. However, the comparators used in these trials do not conform to current standard care in the UK. More research is needed, comparing taxanes used in line with their current UK marketing authorisation and with anthracycline-containing regimens commonly used in the UK. The on-going TACT trial is expected to provide useful data. There are currently few data on the effectiveness of taxanes for the over-70s. Further research is required into the long-term outcomes of taxane therapy, such as whether there are any long-term adverse events that significantly impact on overall survival or quality of life and whether the increases in DFS will translate into increases in overall survival.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / economics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Docetaxel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Paclitaxel / adverse effects
  • Paclitaxel / economics
  • Paclitaxel / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Taxoids / adverse effects
  • Taxoids / economics*
  • Taxoids / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Taxoids
  • Docetaxel
  • Paclitaxel