In what oncologists described as possibly the biggest breakthrough in cervical cancer treatment in two decades, a course of chemotherapy before radiotherapy is projected to dramatically improve the success rates of cancer treatment.
This is according to the results of the GCIG INTERLACE trial, a phase III clinical trial of 500 patients with cervical cancer who were set to undergo chemoradiation, a combination treatment for radiotherapy and chemotherapy which is more effective together than each treatment is on its own.
Half of them received a six-week course of Taxol/Carbo, a combination chemotherapy treatment used to treat lung, ovarian and cervical cancer, before their standard course of treatment.
The other half only received this standard course of treatment, which consisted of cisplatin, brachytherapy radiotherapy and conventional radiotherapy treatments for cervical cancer every week.
The group that received the short course of chemotherapy found that the rate of return for cancer after the treatment after five years was 35 per cent less in the pre-radiotherapy chemotherapy group compared to the control group, the biggest improvement in outcomes seen in over 20 years.
The biggest benefit besides the improved survival rates is that Taxol/Carbo is already approved for chemotherapy, is widely used, accessible and inexpensive, meaning that it can be added to a standard course of treatment quickly.
However, as with most cancer treatments, not every case is the same and therefore not every cervical cancer patient will be suitable for this treatment.
The study was primarily on women in the early stages of cancer before it had started to spread, and it is not known how effective it would be for more advanced cervical cancer cases, although improved screening and diagnosis are helping to offset this by getting people treated sooner.
An extra course of chemotherapy also has the typical side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, sickness and damage to the hair.
However, more options for treatment are always beneficial to patients, as it increases the chance of finding the most suitable one for a given case.