Adjuvant chemotherapy treatment can be given to eligible patients inclusive of old people and women who suffer from stage III colon cancer, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the study. The survival rates are reportedly higher with this treatment.
According to researchers, patients who received chemotherapy after surgery to treat their advanced colon cancer displayed a 16% improvement compared with patients who were not treated with chemotherapy. That means these patients had more than a 30% higher chance of being alive five years after treatment.
Lead researcher J. Milburn Jessup said that the study results should alert both community-based oncologists and colon cancer patients that chemotherapy is, for most people, a beneficial treatment.
"Our intent in part is to show that since women and elderly do benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy as much as men or younger patients do, then it will reassure both patients and doctors that it is a good thing to do. We really hope that this study will result in having both patients and physicians work together to use adjuvant therapy," said Jessup.
The study is unusual because it looked at whether oncologists in the community followed the treatment recommendations issued in 1990 by a NIH consensus conference. These experts found that all patients with stage III colon cancer should be given chemotherapy (a 5-fluorouracil-based regimen) following surgery because several large randomized phase III clinical trials demonstrated improved survival.
They also wanted to determine whether patients over time did, in fact, benefit from use of chemotherapy. Analyzing 12 years of data, the investigators found that chemotherapy did increase survival, but that only two-thirds of patients were receiving this suggested standard of care.
Jessup said the researchers cannot determine why some patients were not given chemotherapy, because they examined only data about patterns of care and survival, but he said "guidelines are just that - they are recommendations for therapy based on objective data from randomized clinical trials but they are not currently enforced."
He added that physicians "pay attention to guidelines from various and assorted organizations but may feel that a particular guideline should not be used for each and every patient. This may be because for this type of guideline, the chemotherapy treatment may be toxic and the physician may not feel the patient will really tolerate it or the patient may be offered the therapy and refuse it." (ANI)