Cervical cancer breakthrough could reduce relapse, death

Treating cervical cancer patients with already existing drugs prior to the standard treatment of chemoradiation (CRT) was found to reduce cancer recurrence and mortality by 35 per cent, according to a new clinical trial. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, affecting more than six lakh women each year. Despite improvements in treatment, cancer returns in up to 30 per cent of cases. The five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is about 70 per cent.

The INTERLACE trial which was done at hospitals in the UK, Mexico, India, Italy and Brazil included 500 patients diagnosed with cervical cancer which was large enough to be seen without a microscope but had not yet spread to other parts of the body. The average age of the patients was 46. The study assigned 250 patients randomly to receive the standard treatment of chemoradiation—external radiation with weekly cisplatin and brachytherapy. The other 250 patients received an initial six-week course of induction chemotherapy (IC) using inexpensive, already approved drugs, followed by the same standard chemoradiation treatment.

Five years later, 80 per cent of those who received IC plus CRT were alive and 73 per cent had not seen their cancer return or spread. On the other hand, only 72 per cent of those who received the standard treatment were alive and 64 per cent had not seen their cancer return or spread. Hailing the results as the “biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years”, the lead researcher said, “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.”