In a first ever study conducted to by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center to analyze the link between colon cancer death rates and adherence to cancer treatment, it has been found that nearly one third of the patients had stopped their chemotherapy. More specifically, stage III colon cancer patients who were prescribed a combination of leucovorin and 5-fluorouracil for 6 months, were found to stop their treatment before completion.
Non-compliance rates in this were as high as 30%. Although previous studies have shown that not adhering to the chemotherapy regimen is associated with shorter survival rates. Moreover, it equates to being offered no treatment at all. Despite this fact, colon cancer patients fail to take the issue seriously. The researchers have therefore urged all colon cancer patients to complete their chemotherapy regime, to reap the maximum benefit of the cancer treatment.
'The intuitive thinking is that if you complete most of a treatment regimen, you should get most of the treatment benefit. But these findings are significant because they indicate that completing treatment is as critical for colon cancer as it is for breast cancer - and we need to do better to ensure that patients who can, complete treatment as intended,' said Alfred I. Neugut, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study along with Dawn L. Hershman, M.D., M.S.
The study will be published in the May 20, 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology (published online April 17, 2006).
The research team used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database to identify stage III colon cancer patients who were at least 65 years of age or older, and who received one to seven months of fluorouracil (FU)-based adjuvant chemotherapy treatment.
Among the 1,579 patients who survived eight months or longer, the 1,091 (69.1 percent) who underwent five to seven months of treatment survived nearly twice as long as the 488 (30.9 percent) who received only one to four months of treatment. Patients, who were older, unmarried and had comorbid conditions, were more likely to receive less than five months of treatment.
The same research team recently published (Journal of Clinical Oncology, Sept. 20, 2005 issue) the first study to link treatment completion issues with race and poor survival rates. The 2005 study found that black women with early stage breast cancer were more likely than their counterparts of other races to abandon chemotherapy before completing their full course of treatment. The findings shed new light on why breast black cancer patients experience lower survival rates than other women, despite a lower incidence.