Bristol-Myers Squibb was celebrating this morning after securing European Union approval for its oncology drug, Taxol (paclitaxel), in the adjuvant treatment of early-stage node-positive breast cancer. The firm says that this new indication means that more patients could benefit from earlier treatment.

“While we already know that Taxol is effective for advanced disease, this significant development means that even more women could benefit through the earlier treatment of their breast cancer with Taxol,” said Annalisa Jenkins, B-MS’ European vice president and chief medical officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Over 300,000 patients are diagnosed with node-positive early breast cancer in Europe each year. Early stage disease means that the patient’s cancer is contained within the breast, with or without lymph node involvement. Following surgery to remove the bulk of the tumour, there is often a greater chance that the cancer will not recur if any residual tumour cells are eradicated via additional treatments such as adjuvant chemotherapy. Taxol is already approved in the adjuvant setting in the USA and Switzerland.

Approval was based on data showing that patients who received Taxol together with chemotherapy had a significant reduction of 18% in the risk of disease recurrence relative to patients receiving chemotherapy alone, and a significant reduction of 19% in the risk of death.