How to make sure you have a healthy tumour and cancer treatment plan?
It may be a long time before we know the answer to that question, says the head of the World Health Organization’s World Cancer Research Fund, but a number of studies have suggested it may be possible.
In a report published in March, the US government’s National Institutes of Health found that about 10 per cent of cancer patients were suffering from poor outcomes and it was time to consider making better use of existing cancer treatments.
“We need to think about ways to better manage our patients who are at high risk for cancer, who are on treatment with high-risk drugs, or who are receiving very high doses of radiation,” says Dr Peter Gandy, chief medical officer of the US National Cancer Institute.
“But at the same time, we also need to consider the costs and benefits of these treatments and the likelihood that some patients will respond better than others to treatment,” he says.
The latest US study is an update of the previous work that looked at a wider range of cancer diagnoses.
It was funded by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the US department of health.
It compared data from more than 3,000 patients who had been diagnosed with cancer and the same patients in general who were treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
“There are a lot of different things we can do to improve the outcomes of patients with cancer,” says lead author Dr Chris Wood.
“We need a better understanding of what is working and what is not.”
What are cancer treatment options?
“It is not just a matter of getting a cancer treatment, it is a matter, in some cases, of managing the risks that you might have with a cancer therapy,” he said.
“A lot of the cancer therapies we have today are very effective in the short term.
But when you get cancer over a long period of time, they do not work very well.”
In the latest study, Wood and his team looked at the outcomes for 6,000 people diagnosed with prostate cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, bladder cancer and pancreatic cancer.
The average age of the patients was 63 and the average length of treatment was seven years.
“Our research has found that a combination of radiotherapy and chemo or radiation treatment is not very effective,” says Wood.
“What we are doing with radiocontrast, for example, is to use it to treat cancer over the long term.
That is a very expensive treatment.”
The results showed the combined use of these two treatments was associated with significantly better outcomes than the standard chemotherapy approach.
“It was quite surprising to see that radiotherapy is effective,” Dr Wood says.
“But we also found that chemo is not effective.”
Dr Wood said radiotherapy has many advantages over chemo.
“For example, there is no risk of scarring and there is a higher chance of a patient getting lymphomas,” he explains.
“The cancer cells are removed in a very controlled way.
And, you know, it also is a relatively cheap treatment because it is relatively safe.”
One of the things that we have learned is that the chemo treatments do not have to be given continuously, they can be given every day or every other day for six months.
“So there are advantages to that approach.””
If you are on chemo and you get breast cancer or prostate cancer and you have been treated with chemo, you can get it removed very quickly,” he points out.
“So there are advantages to that approach.”
What is the cost of cancer treatment?
“We know that radiocommunication is a much safer and cheaper option than chemotherapy.
In some cases it can save a lot more money,” he adds.”
So, it’s an expensive treatment.
But in other cases, radiotherapy can save thousands of dollars.”
This is a huge cost to pay for the treatment.
And we are also not using a lot on cancer in terms of treatments for other diseases.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.”
This is an important issue to consider because we have a lot to learn from the research,” says Gandy.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.