28 patients with recurrent advanced breast cancer were treated with a salvage regimen consisting of vincristine, epirubicin and ifosfamide/mesna (VIE). All patients had poor prognostic characteristics defined as relapse within 12 months of chemotherapy or as relapse within a radiotherapy field. Chemotherapy was infused continuously through a central venous catheter using a portable pump. Ifosfamide (3 g/m2) mixed with mesna (3 g/m2) was infused for 7 days followed by epirubicin (50 mg/m2) mixed with vincristine (1.5 mg/m2) over a further seven days and alternated for a total of 6 weeks. 9 of the 28 patients (32%) responded to VIE (six partial and three complete responses). This included 6 of the 18 patients (33%) who had previously received doxorubicin or mitoxantrone, 6 of the 17 patients (35%) who had an inoperable in-field relapse after radiotherapy for locally advanced cancer, and 5 of the 21 patients (24%) relapsing within 6 months of previous chemotherapy. Median duration of response and overall survival were 3.7 and 6.9 months, respectively. Myelotoxicity was mild. One patient had neutropenic sepsis, 3 patients had grade 3 nausea and vomiting and one patient developed paralytic ileus attributed to vincristine. Central venous catheter complications occurred in 12 of 33 catheters requiring removal in 6. Continuous infusional chemotherapy using vincristine, epirubicin and ifosfamide achieves a 32% overall response rate in treatment-resistant advanced breast cancer, and is associated with minimal toxicity and a short treatment period. VIE may be a suitable alternative to conventional chemotherapy.
- breast cancer
- infusional chemotherapy