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Scientists Hail Biggest Cervical Cancer Drug Advance in 20 Years

A recent study unveils a new approach to cervical cancer drug treatment, reducing the risk of recurrence and improving survival rates. Credit: Public Domain

In a groundbreaking development, researchers have potentially achieved a major advancement in the treatment of cervical cancer, a first of its kind in two decades. This was achieved by utilizing an affordable and readily available set of medications in conjunction with standard radiotherapy treatment.

The results of the clinical trial, presented at the ESMO medical conference, are nothing short of impressive. The innovative approach has demonstrated a remarkable thirty-five percent reduction in the chances of women succumbing to the disease or experiencing a cancer recurrence.

Cancer Research UK, the organization responsible for funding this research, has hailed these findings as nothing short of extraordinary. It is anticipated that medical facilities will swiftly adopt this approach to benefit patients.

Need for new approaches to treat cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is a significant concern for many women in the UK, particularly those in their early thirties. While radiotherapy treatments have seen improvements, the disease re-emerges in as many as a third of cases, underscoring the urgent need for novel approaches.

According to Dr. Iain Foulkes, a key figure at Cancer Research UK, the timing of the cancer treatment is crucial.

“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,” explained Foulkes. “Not only can it reduce the chances of cancer coming back, [but] it can be delivered quickly using drugs already available worldwide.”

“We’re excited for the improvements this trial could bring to cervical cancer treatment and hope short courses of induction chemotherapy will be rapidly adopted in the clinic,” the doctor said.

Study for new cervical cancer treatment

The study involved 250 women diagnosed with cervical cancer. These women underwent a novel treatment approach. The method was comprised of an intense six-week regimen of carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy, followed by the conventional treatment, which includes radiotherapy, weekly cisplatin, and brachytherapy, known as chemoradiation.

In contrast, another group of 250 women, acting as the control group, solely received the standard chemoradiation treatment.

Fast forward five years and the results were noteworthy. In the group that had undergone the new treatment, eighty percent of the participants were still alive, and seventy-three percent had not experienced a recurrence or spread of their cancer.

In comparison, within the group receiving the “usual” treatment, seventy-two percent were alive, and sixty-four percent had not witnessed their cancer returning or spreading.

Dr. Mary McCormack, the principal investigator of the trial hailing from UCL Cancer Institute and UCLH, expressed her findings, stating: “Our trial shows that this short course of additional chemotherapy delivered immediately before the standard CRT can reduce the risk of cancer returning or death by 35 percent.”

She further said, “This is the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over [twenty] years.”

Dr. McCormack explained on BBC that “the important thing here is…if patients are alive and well, without the cancer recurring at five years, then they are very likely to be cured, so that’s what makes this very exciting.”

Affordable and readily available drug therapy

The good news is that the two chemotherapy drugs used in this treatment are not only affordable but also readily available with prior approval for patient use. This has led experts to consider the possibility of swiftly establishing them as a new standard of care.

However, it is important to note that the treatment might not yield the same positive results for every woman with cervical cancer. Many of the women in the study had cancers that hadn’t yet spread to other parts of their bodies. The effectiveness of this therapy for women with more advanced stages of the disease remains uncertain.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that these drugs may have undesirable side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.

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