October 26, 2010

Cancer Survival Rates Improved With Radiation And Targeted Therapies

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Taking back the years the fears and anxieties of having cancer may have brought are possible. Studies have shown higher survival rates for people with head and neck cancers that test positive for HPV when they are treated with systemic chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Systemic chemotherapy is treatment with anticancer drugs that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body. While radiation therapy utilizes x-rays at very high doses to treat or control disease.

Now, a new study suggests outcomes are also better when radiation therapy is combined with cetuximab, a targeted therapy. Targeted therapy treatment use drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells while limiting the affect on normal cells.

The study, conducted at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, analyzed tumors from patients between 2007 and 2009 with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma that were treated with cetuximab and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
Of these patients, six had stage III disease and 14 had stage IV disease. The median age was 63 (age ranged from 31 to 78).

After a follow up at 19 months, four patients had died and 12 patients had disease progression.
"We found a statistically significant higher progression free survival rates when comparing the outcomes of patients with HPV-positive tumors to those with HPV-negative tumors," Keith Unger, M.D., lead author of the study, was quoted as saying.

One-year progression free survival rates were 100 percent for those with HPV-positive tumors and 31 percent for those who were HPV negative.

While not statistically significant, researchers observed a trend in improved overall survival. One-year overall survival rates were 100 percent for those with HPV-positive tumors versus 83 percent in HPV-negative tumors.

SOURCE: American Society for Radiation Oncology, October 2010