Résumé : PURPOSE: The association of continuous infusion 5-fluorouracil, epirubicin (50 mg/m2 q 3 weeks) and a platinum compound (cisplatin or carboplatin) was found to be very active in patients with either locally advanced/inflammatory (LA/I) [1, 2] or large operable (LO) breast cancer (BC) [3]. The same rate of activity in terms of response rate (RR) and response duration was observed in LA/I BC patients when cisplatin was replaced by cyclophosphamide [4]. The dose of epirubicin was either 50 mg/m2 [ 1, 2, 3] or 60 mg/m2/cycle [4]. The main objective of this study was to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of epirubicin when given in combination with fixed doses of cyclophosphamide and infusional 5-fluorouracil (CEF-infu) as neoadjuvant therapy in patients with LO or LA/I BC for a maximum of 6 cycles. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Eligible patients had LO or LA/I BC, a performance status 0-1, adequate organ function and were <65 years old. Cyclophosphamide was administered at the dose of 400 mg/m2 day 1 and 8, q 4 weeks and infusional 5-fluorouracil 200 mg/m2/day was given day 1-28, q 4 weeks. Epirubicin was escalated from 30 to 45 and to 60 mg/m2 day 1 and 8; dose escalation was permitted if 0/3 or 1/6 patients experienced dose limiting toxicity (DLT) during the first 2 cycles of therapy. DLT for epirubicin was defined as febrile neutropenia, grade 4 neutropenia lasting for >7 days, grade 4 thrombocytopenia, or any non-haematological toxicity of CTC grade > or =3, excluding alopecia and plantar-palmar erythrodysesthesia (this toxicity was attributable to infusional 5-fluorouracil and was not considered a DLT of epirubicin). RESULTS: A total of 21 patients, median age 44 years (range 29-63) have been treated. 107 courses have been delivered, with a median number of 5 cycles per patient (range 4-6). DLTs on cycles I and 2 on level 1, 2, 3: grade 3 (G3) mucositis occurred in 1/10 patients treated at the third dose level. An interim analysis showed that G3 PPE occurred in 5/16 pts treated with the 28-day infusional 5-FU schedule at the 3 dose levels. The protocol was subsequently amended to limit the duration of infusional 5-fluorouracil infusion from 4 to 3 weeks. No G3 PPE was detected in 5 patients treated with this new schedule. CONCLUSIONS: This study establishes that epirubicin 60mg/m2 day 1 and 8, cyclophosphamide 400mg/m2 day 1 and 8 and infusional 5-fluorouracil 200 mg/m2/day day 1-21. q 4 weeks is the recommended dose level. Given the encouraging activity of this regimen (15/21 clinical responses) we have replaced infusional 5-fluorouracil by oral capecitabine in a recently activated study.