Chemo BEFORE bowel cancer surgery cuts risk of disease returning by a quarter, ‘remarkable’ trial finds
- Research suggests chemotherapy should be done before bowel cancer surgery
- A trial funded by Cancer Research UK gave patients chemotherapy for six weeks beforehand
- He discovered that chemotherapy before surgery could reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by a quarter
Chemotherapy before bowel cancer surgery can cut its chances of returning by more than a quarter, research shows.
The Cancer Research UK-funded trial shows that giving chemotherapy before operating for early-stage bowel cancer reduces the risk of the disease recurring by 28%.
Experts said the ‘remarkable’ findings could transform the way people in the early stages of the disease are treated, potentially improving the prognosis of around 5,000 UK patients a year.
Chemotherapy is usually given after surgery to try to capture stray cancer cells that could cause the disease to come back.
Chemotherapy before bowel cancer surgery can cut its chances of coming back by more than a quarter, study finds (file photo)
Under the new regime, patients would receive six weeks of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery, followed by an additional 18 weeks of chemotherapy.
The FOxTROT trial, conducted by the universities of Birmingham and Leeds, involved 1,053 patients at 85 hospitals in the UK, Denmark and Sweden.
During the study, the first group of patients received six weeks of chemotherapy, followed by surgery, and then 18 weeks of chemotherapy.
The second group had standard treatment for bowel cancer, which involved surgery followed by 24 weeks of chemotherapy.
The results showed that patients who received chemotherapy before surgery were significantly less likely to have their cancer come back within two years.
Professor Matthew Seymour, from the University of Leeds, said it showed ‘timing is everything’ when it comes to treating the disease, also known as colon cancer.
He said: “The simple act of offering chemotherapy, giving it before rather than after surgery, gives remarkable results.
“Giving chemotherapy before surgery could prevent cancer recurrences without the need for expensive new drugs or technologies.
“It was particularly encouraging to see that patients who had received chemotherapy before their surgery suffered from fewer surgical complications.”
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 11% of all new cancer cases with around 42,900 diagnoses each year.
Scientists believe this approach could be adopted across the NHS and in countries around the world, benefiting hundreds of thousands of patients each year.
Dr Laura Magill, an associate professor at the Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit, said as many as one in three bowel cancer patients would see it come back after surgery, which was “too high “.
“The standard approach has been to give chemotherapy after surgery to eradicate any cancerous cells that may have spread before surgery.
“But our research shows that giving some of this chemotherapy before surgery increases the chance that all cancer cells will be killed.
Under the new regime, bowel cancer patients would receive six weeks of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery, followed by a further 18 weeks of chemotherapy (file photo)
“A growing body of evidence shows the value of preoperative chemotherapy in several other cancers, and we believe our results could transform the way we approach colon cancer in the clinic.”
Further clinical trials are planned to determine whether older patients also benefit from chemotherapy before surgery, according to findings published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
It comes after the Daily Mail teamed up with Cancer Research UK, which launched the Fighting to Beat Children’s Cancer campaign, asking generous readers to dig deep and help turn the tide of cancer.
Genevieve Edwards, from Bowel Cancer UK, said: ‘It is wonderful to see such positive results from this robust trial, which we have been following with great interest.
“This is fantastic news that has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of the thousands of people diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer each year.”