FRIDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Adding oxaliplatin to a
standard chemotherapy regimen boosts survival rates for patients
with advanced colon cancer, according to a new study that bolsters
previous research on the drug by looking at a broader group of
"Physicians and patients should be reassured from our findings that oxaliplatin is associated with marginally but consistently superior survival for patients diagnosed before age 75 years in community settings," the study authors said in a news release.
In past studies, oxaliplatin, as an adjuvant to the established
treatment of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), improved survival by up to 23
percent. But the new study looked at a different group of colon
cancer patients, who were older, sicker, more racially diverse and
had never participated in a controlled clinical study.
The study, led by Dr. Hanna Sanoff, an assistant professor of
medicine, hematology and oncology at the University of Virginia
School of Medicine, appears in the Jan. 20 issue of the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Colon cancer is one of the world's deadliest diseases, with more
than 100,000 Americans diagnosed last year, the researchers noted.
Of these, roughly a third had an advanced -- stage 3 -- cancer, for
which surgery is the principal treatment.
Surgery alone produces disease-free survival rates of between 15
percent and 50 percent five years following treatment, according to
study background information. To improve their chances, patients
often also undergo post-surgical chemotherapy.
Up until 2004, the drug 5-FU -- given in combination with
leucovorin, which boosts its effects -- was the chemotherapy of
choice for colon cancer, sparking a 26 percent drop in death rates
compared to patients undergoing surgery alone.
But in 2004, several U.S. National Cancer Institute studies
indicated that by adding oxaliplatin to the 5-FU mix, patients
could see survival rates rise by yet another 23 percent.
The one caveat: Only a tiny slice of cancer patients (less than
2 percent) participated in those clinical trials, and those tended
to be younger, healthier and less diverse than the larger general
population of colon cancer patients.
To determine whether oxaliplatin would show a similar benefit
among a "real-world" population of patients, the authors sifted
through five cancer registries containing survival information on
more than 4,000 people with stage 3 colon cancer. All were younger
than 75, and all had begun chemotherapy -- either a standard
regimen or in combination with oxaliplatin -- within four months of
having surgery between 2004 and 2009.
Researchers compared their survival rates with those of nearly
8,300 patients who had participated in one of five different
clinical trials using oxaliplatin.
The addition of oxaliplatin to standard chemotherapy protocols
was found to be just as effective in prolonging survival among the
community-based set of patients -- including the elderly,
minorities and those with additional complicating health issues --
who were not enrolled in studies.
For her part, Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, a gastroenterologist
at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in
New York City, said the finding "goes along with what we've
"So, it's not surprising," she said. "But, certainly this is positive. The analysis doesn't focus on some of the most common adverse reactions seen with this combination. But in terms of survival, it certainly supports our previously held belief that oxaliplatin increases survival and lowers the chance of cancer returning in some of those stage 3 post-surgery patients."
For more on colon cancer, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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