New cervical cancer drugs breakthrough could boost survival rates

Using drugs before standard treatment for cervical cancer may lead to a 35% reduction in the risk of death or the return of cancer.

Researchers assessed whether a short course of induction chemotherapy – using a drug to destroy as many cancer cells as possible – before chemoradiation could cut rates of relapse and death.

They found that after five years 80% of those who received a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy survived while 73% had not seen the cancer return or spread.

In the standard treatment group, 72% were still alive and 64% had not had a relapse or seen the disease spread.

Over 10 years, 500 patients in the UK, Mexico, India, Italy and Brazil took part in the trial.

Dr Mary McCormack, lead investigator, from UCL Cancer Institute and UCLH, said: “Our trial shows this short course of additional chemotherapy delivered immediately before the standard CRT (chemoradiation) can reduce the risk of the cancer returning or death by 35%.

This is the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years. I’m proud of all the patients who participated in the trial.” Cervical cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women in their early 30s, with around 3,200 new cases in this country each year.

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

Dr Iain Foulkes, the executive director of research and innovation at the charity, said: “Timing is everything when you’re treating cancer.

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“The simple act ­ of adding induction chemotherapy to the start of chemoradiation treatment for cervical cancer has delivered remarkable results in this trial.

“A growing body of evidence is showing the value of additional rounds of chemotherapy before other treatments like surgery and radiotherapy in several other cancers.”

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

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