Many colon cancer patients can cut their chemotherapy regimen in half, improving their quality of life and reducing their chances of having debilitating side effects, according to the results of a major study released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting.
The goal of the study was to determine whether a three-month course of chemotherapy was as effective as six months of treatment in people with Stage 3 colon cancer. The study found that the shorter treatment was almost as effective as the longer treatment, especially for patients with lower-risk cancers. In addition, the shorter schedule was more convenient and resulted in fewer side effects.
The researchers pooled data from six clinical trials with almost 13,000 colon cancer patients in North America, Europe and Asia. Overall, 74.6 percent of patients who got the three-month therapy were cancer free at three years, compared with 75.5 percent on the six-month schedule, and the results were virtually identical for patients with lower-risk disease, defined as cancer that had spread to one to three lymph nodes but not completely through the bowel wall.
These study results have the potential to have an immediate impact on individuals receiving chemotherapy for colon cancer. Standard chemotherapy treatment uses a medicine called oxaliplatin. Oxaliplatin can cause neuropathy resulting in tingling, numbness and pain in the hands and feet. Unlike other side effects neuropathy can be permanent.
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