October 6, 2008
New Hope in Testicular Cancer Battle
Carboplatin, which is often used to treat ovarian and lung cancer, can replace radiotherapy to cure early-stage seminoma, a Medical Research Council study has found.The drug is being hailed as a "safer cure" for the cancer by experts, with fewer long-term risks.About 40 to 45 per cent of testicular cancers are early-stage seminoma and between 780 and 880 men are diagnosed with this stage of the disease each year in the UK.In the early stages the cancer is either confined to the testicle or causes slight enlargement of the lymph nodes in the pelvis or abdomen. It is nearly always curable and more than 95 per cent of men diagnosed with early-stage seminoma live for more than five years after diagnosis.In the largest ever trial of the disease, one carboplatin injection was used to treat 573 patients with early-stage seminoma.The results were compared with 904 men given two or three weeks of daily radiotherapy, the standard treatment at present.Those given carboplatin experienced fewer side-effects and were able to get back to their normal lives quicker than the men on radiotherapy.Of 573 patients given carboplatin, a total of five per cent relapsed within three years. But none died from their cancer following further treatment.Men with seminomas usually have the testicle removed where the cancer occurred.In one in 20 cases the other testicle also develops cancer.Patients treated with carboplatin were far less likely to dev- elop cancer in the other testicle.Only two out of 573 did so compared with 15 out of 904 treated with radiotherapy.Dr Ben Mead, honorary senior lecturer in medical oncology at the University of Southampton's School of Medicine, will present the study today at the National Cancer Research Institute cancer conference in Birmingham.He said: "We were pleased by the results of this huge trial."Giving patients a carboplatin injection rather than radiotherapy is less unpleasant with fewer long-term risks."The initial results of the trial looked encouraging, but we needed to follow patients for an-other four years before we knew for sure that they had been cured."These follow-up results are very reassuring and have already changed practice in Europe. We hope that carboplatin injections will become the standard treatment for this disease across the rest of the world within a few years."A particular advantage with this treatment is that follow-up beyond three years is not necessary."Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician also based at Southampton University, said: "Seminoma is a great success story for the field of cancer research."The results of treatment with radiotherapy were already good, but the role of chemotherapy treatment had not been clear."This trial now shows that chemotherapy can cure early stage seminoma, so that men diagnosed with the disease can be successfully treated with fewer side-effects."Sally Stenning, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) clinical trials' unit, which ran the trial, said it had "focused on minimising the side-effects of treatments both short and long-term, without compromising cure rates, to help young men diagnosed with the disease go on to lead the fullest possible life in the best of health".
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