Already approved drugs could reduce the risk of cervical cancer recurrence, study says | Cervical cancer

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Using existing drugs before standard treatment for cervical cancer could lead to about a third reduction in the risk of the disease coming back or causing death, study results suggest.

Researchers evaluated whether a short course of induction chemotherapy (IC), using cheap, already approved drugs to kill as many cancer cells as possible, could reduce relapse and death rates if given before chemoradiation (CRT), a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Cancer Research UK said the results were “remarkable”.

The trial found that after five years, 80% of those who received IC plus CRT were alive and 73% had not seen their cancer return or spread. Among those who had just received standard treatment, 72 percent were alive and 64 percent had not seen their cancer return or spread.

Dr Mary McCormack, principal investigator of the trial at University College London Cancer Institute and University College London Hospital, said: “Our trial shows that this short course of additional chemotherapy given immediately before standard CRT may reduce the risk of cancer return or death by 35%. This is the largest improvement in the outcome of this disease in more than 20 years.

“I am incredibly proud of all the patients who participated in the trial; “Their contribution has allowed us to gather the evidence needed to improve the treatment of cervical cancer patients around the world.”

Cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women in their early 30s, with around 3,200 new cases each year in the UK.

CRT has been the standard treatment since 1999. Despite improvements in radiotherapy techniques, cancer returns in up to 30% of cases.

According to Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is approximately 70%.

Over 10 years, 500 patients participated in the randomized controlled trial in hospitals in the United Kingdom, Mexico, India, Italy and Brazil. The study has not been peer reviewed.

The participants had been diagnosed with cervical cancer that was large enough to be seen without a microscope but had not spread to other parts of the body.

The drugs needed for IC (carboplatin and paclitaxel) are cheap, accessible and already approved for use in patients, so they could be incorporated into standard treatment relatively quickly, the researchers said.

Professor Jonathan Ledermann, lead author of the results from the UCL Cancer Institute, said the findings were “an important advance in treatment”.

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “Timing is everything when treating cancer. Simply adding induction chemotherapy to the start of chemoradiation treatment for cervical cancer has yielded notable results in this trial.

“A growing body of evidence shows the value of additional rounds of chemotherapy before other treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy in several other types of cancer. Not only can it reduce the chances of the cancer coming back, but it can also be managed quickly using drugs that are already available around the world.

“We are excited about the improvements this trial could bring to the treatment of cervical cancer and hope that short courses of induction chemotherapy will be rapidly adopted in the clinic.”

Preliminary results were presented Sunday at the European Society of Medical Oncology congress.

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