Capecitabine is a recently developed drug. It is a type of medicine called an antimetabolite because it interferes with the metabolism and growth of cells. Capecitabine is an unusual anti-cancer drug in that it is most active in cancer cells; normal cells are exposed to far lower concentrations of the drug. Cancer cells convert capecitabine into another anti-cancer drug called 5-fluorouracil (fluorouracil). This substance prevents cells from growing and reproducing by interfering with the production of DNA and RNA. Eventually the cells die.
Capecitabine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of metasta-sized breast cancer that is resistant to standard chemotherapy. Capecitabine may be used in combination with the drug docetaxel (Taxotere). A study completed in 2000 found that 56% of women receiving this combination therapy survived at least one year, with an average survival time of 14 months.
A study completed in 2001 found that capecitabine is as effective as 5-fluorouracil for treating metastasized colorectal cancer, and has fewer and less severe side effects. However, it does not increase the average survival time of approximately 13 months.
Margaret Alic Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,