Breakthrough in cervical cancer treatment could reduce deaths by 35% | Science and technology news



Scientists say already available drugs could lead to a 35% reduction in deaths caused by cervical cancer, labeling their findings the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of the disease in over 20 years.

Researchers from the UCL Cancer Institute and UCLH say a short course of induction chemotherapy (IC) before standard treatment for cervical Cancerchemoradiation (CRT), could significantly reduce the number of relapses and death.

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

It is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, according to the World Health Organization.

The trial showed that after five years, 80% of those with cancer who received IC plus CRT – a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy – were alive, and 73% had not seen it return or spread.

In the usual treatment group, 72% of those with cancer were alive and 64% had not seen it return or spread.

Dr. Mary McCormack, lead investigator of the trial, called it “the biggest improvement in the outcome of this disease in over 20 years”.

Dr. Iain Foulkes, chief executive of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “Timing is everything when treating cancer.

“The simple act of adding induction chemotherapy to the start of chemoradiation therapy for cervical cancer has produced remarkable 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 cancers.

“Not only can it reduce the chances of the cancer returning, it can be delivered quickly using drugs that are already available around the world.

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

The trial, which involved 500 patients across the UK, Mexico, India, Italy and Brazil, took place over a 10-year period.

Because the drugs required for IC, carboplatin and paclitaxel, are cheap, available and already approved for use in patients, the researchers say they could be incorporated into standard care relatively quickly.

It could mean the first shake-up in how cervical cancer is treated since 1999.

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CRT has been the standard treatment, but 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 around 70%.

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

Dr. McCormack added: “I am incredibly proud of all the patients who took part in the trial; their contribution has enabled us to gather the evidence needed to improve the care of cervical cancer patients everywhere.”

The preliminary results were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology congress.


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