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Study provides cancer breakthrough


Researchers have said a common chemotherapy drug can be used as an alternative to standard treatment for people with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

New light has been shed on the effectiveness of 5-fluorouracil, or 5-FU, thanks to a study carried out at the University of Liverpool.

The researchers are now looking at the effect of administering an 5-FU pill along with gemcitabine, an expensive chemotherapy drug.

A wide range of cancers, including those of the bowel, the breast and the ovaries, are already treated with 5-FU.

John Neoptolemos, director of the Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre based at the university and who was in charge of the study, said: “Importantly this means patients now have a back-up in case their cancer fails to respond to the first line of treatment. A new trial investigating whether combining these two treatments could be even more effective and prolong life is already under way and we look forward to seeing the result.”

Around 1,000 people from Europe, Australasia, Japan and Canada took part in the study, which is known as ESPAC-3 (European Study Group for Pancreatic Cancer). One set of participants were given gemcitabine and another got 5-FU.

Because of the findings, which appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 5-FU can now be included as a standard option to treat pancreatic cancer, the researchers said.

Every year in the UK nearly 8,000 people fall victim to pancreatic cancer. This form of the disease is notoriously difficult to beat and only around 3% of those infected survive longer than five years.

Copyright Press Association 2010

Journal of the American Medical Association

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