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Published on 9 March 2009

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Longer life for brain tumour patients?

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Survival rates for the brain tumour glioblastoma have been improved by combining the chemotherapy drug temozolomide with radiotherapy.

According to the EORTC-NCIC trial results, published in the May edition of The Lancet Oncology, this improvement lasts for up to five years.

But author Roger Stupp warns that the treatment does not truly modify the natural behaviour of the disease and is unlikely to lead to a cure.

In 2004, the phase III EORTC-NCIC trial showed that the combined treatment reduced the risk of dying from glioblastoma by 37% (HR for death 0.63, CI 0.53-0.75) compared with radiotherapy alone.

At two years, 27% were alive compared with 10% being treated with radiotherapy (RT) alone; at three years, 16% and 4%; at four years, 12.1% and 3%; and at five years, 9.8% and 1.9%.

Increased survival was seen across all clinical prognostic subgroups, even among elderly patients or those whose tumour could not be removed.

In exploratory analyses, survival data were best in patients whose tumours carried an inactivated MGMT gene (0-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase). The trial concluded that gene testing would indicate which patients are most likely to benefit from this treatment.

Copyright Press Association 2009



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