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Capecitabine, an oral fluoropyrimidine carbamate, was designed to generate 5-fluorouracil preferentially at the tumour site. This randomised, phase II trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of capecitabine or paclitaxel in patients with anthracycline-pretreated metastatic breast cancer. Outpatients with locally advanced and/or metastatic breast cancer whose disease was unresponsive or resistant to anthracycline therapy were randomised to 3-week cycles of intermittent oral capecitabine (1255 mg m(-2) twice daily, days 1 - 14, (22 patients)) or a reference arm of i.v. paclitaxel (175 mg m-2, (20 patients)). Two additional patients were initially randomised to continuous capecitabine 666 mg m(-2) twice daily, but this arm was closed following selection of the intermittent schedule for further development. Overall response rate was 36% (95% Cl 17 - 59%) with capecitabine (including three complete responses) and 26% (95% Cl 9 - 51%) with paclitaxel (no complete responses). Median time to disease progression was similar in the two treatment groups (3.0 months with capecitabine, 3.1 months with paclitaxel), as was overall survival (7.6 and 9.4 months, respectively). Paclitaxel was associated with more alopecia, peripheral neuropathy, myalgia and neutropenia, whereas typical capecitabine-related adverse events were diarrhoea, vomiting and hand -foot syndrome. Twenty-three per cent of capecitabine-treated patients and 16% of paclitaxel-treated patients achieved a greater than or equal to 10% improvement in Karnofsky Performance Status. Oral capecitabine is active in anthracycline-pretreated advanced/metastatic breast cancer and has a favourable safety profile. Furthermore, capecitabine provides a convenient, patient-orientated therapy. (C) 2002 Cancer Research UK.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Cancer

Publication Date





1367 - 1372


anthracycline-resistant breast cancer capecitabine fluoropyrimidine paclitaxel fluoropyrimidine carbamate colorectal-cancer docetaxel chemotherapy