- Cancer Research UK said the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 70%
Cervical cancer patients who receive an initial course of drugs before their standard treatment are a third less likely to die or for the disease to return, a study suggests.
Chemoradiation – receiving chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy – has been the standard treatment since 1999, but despite improved techniques cancer returns in up to 30 per cent of cases.
A team from University College London recruited 500 patients to take part in a ten-year trial.
All had cervical cancer which was large enough to be seen without a microscope but had not spread.
Most cervical cancer cases occur in women in their early 30s, with around 3,200 new diagnoses a year in the UK (stock photo)
Each participant received standard chemoradiation treatment, but some were given a course of induction chemotherapy first.
The intensive treatment, which uses drugs to destroy as many cancer cells as possible, maximising the benefit of chemoradiation, has been linked to certain risks and may not be suitable for everyone.
But initial analysis revealed that, after five years, 80 per cent of those who had received both treatments were alive and 73 per cent had not seen their cancer return or spread.
In the standard treatment group, 72 per cent were alive and 64 per cent had not seen their cancer return or spread.
Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, praised the ‘remarkable results’ (stock photo)
Dr Mary McCormack, lead investigator of the study, went on to say: ‘Our trial shows that this short course of additional chemotherapy delivered immediately before the standard CRT can reduce the risk of the cancer returning or death by 35 per cent. This is the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years.’
Most cervical cancer cases occur in women in their early 30s, with around 3,200 new diagnoses a year in the UK.
According to Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is around 70 per cent.
Since the drugs required for induction chemotherapy – carboplatin and paclitaxel – are cheap, accessible and already approved for use in patients, the researchers said they could be incorporated into standard treatment relatively quickly.
Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, praised the ‘remarkable results’.
He said: ‘Timing is everything when you’re treating cancer.
‘Not only can it reduce the chances of cancer coming back, it can be delivered quickly using drugs already available worldwide.’